Arable farming’s shrinking profit margins were brought to the attention of MP Calum Kerr during a farm visit to Coldstream Mains.
The Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader for Environment and Rural Affairs has been spending time discussing key topics with representatives from the Borders farming community.
He visited Colin McGregor and David Fuller from McGregor Farms, accompanied by NFUS president Allan Bowie, Angus Bell from Active Business Partnerships and Catherine Barrett and Neil Thomson from Bayer CropScience.
Miss Barrett explained: “We have been helping to facilitate meetings between MPs and farmers in their local constituencies so they can find out for themselves about the issues facing agriculture both at a local and national level.”
Discussions covered a range of issues, with Mr Bowie highlighting some of the political challenges faced by farmers in the Borders due to the differences in implementation of the new CAP reform between England and Scotland and in particular crop margins, nitrogenous crops and buffer zones on EFA land.
Mr Bowie added: “The harvest dates of nitrogenous crops on EFA land is causing particular concern, especially in The Borders when their neighbours have a more advantageous harvest date.”
He also underlined the current cost and weather challenges farmers were facing, something Mr McGregor also highlighted. With current wheat prices no different to what farmers received in 1985, profit margins had been squeezed as costs of production had doubled, Mr McGregor said.
“The challenges facing growers have increased, with more pressure from weeds, diseases and pests and extreme weather patterns taking their toll,” he said. “This year, for example, it was very dry at Coldstream with 33% of average rain from January to June, and then we had 135mm rain in July.” Such extremes affect the productivity of crops and present challenges to farm work and harvest.
Demonstration plots on the farm were used to highlight the benefits of plant protection products in the battle against wheat diseases. An example is the much-talked about neonicotinoid seed treatments, but Neil Thomson was able to explain to Mr Kerr that using seed treatments allowed protection to be targeted at pests that attack the young plant.
Mr Kerr was struck by the complexity and technical advancement of McGregor Farms, and the size and cost of the machinery used on the farm.
He said: “A huge thanks to Colin and the team for showing me round. It’s important that politicians, as elected representatives, have a proper understanding of the farming industry.”