The fourth annual Northern Farming conference attracted a record audience of 330 at Hexham mart. Organisers had to stop taking bookings as the conference room was full. Mike Bridgen reports

FARMERS were challenged to embrace the increased focus on environmental management in the new Common Agricultural Policy and not complain about it.

Prof Allan Buckwell said that over the seven years to 2020, the EU taxpayer would spend 100bn euros on “greening”.

He said: “The most fertile soils are those that recover the best. We have been working ours hard for many years and so it is only right that we should invest in environmental schemes to improve the quality of our soil and water supplies.

“Farming is an extraordinarily complex process of producing food and managing the environment, and the CAP exists to help manage the volatility and variability of the food market – but also to fund the upkeep of our country’s landscapes, for which there is no market.”

He added: “Just get your farmland bird and worm count up and everyone will be happy.”

  • Jonathan Allright, head of the Agricultural Mortgage Corporation, told delegates that this was a good time to restructure finance. He said: “We have become too used to low base rates. These will rise, and fixed rates are already on the move so now is a good time to mitigate the risk.”

With farm prices at a high, he advised caution when buying.

“Look at the five-year average and work out if you can afford interest payments in the lean years. Most of all, make sure you surround yourself with good advisers.”