EU subsidies keeping farms going, says Grimsdale

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ARABLE farmers will have to slash production costs by using less power on the farm and adopting minimum cultivation and precision farming techniques to survive in a volatile market place, according to a leading Border farmer.

William Grimsdale, who, with his two sons, Jorin and Aidan, farms 2,000 hectares on a share farming arrangements with seven neighbours along with his own farm of Mountfair, Whitsome, told an Scottish Rural College (SRUC) arable open day that European farmers were only able to afford their high-cost systems of farming because of EU subsidies.

“It’s ridiculous that we’re using 500 horse power tractors to get our crops sown,” Grimsdale told his fellow farmers. “Farmers in other parts of the world don’t do it because they can’t afford the capital cost and its all to do with the subsidies we receive.”

Farmers could survive and make a profit when cereal prices were £160 to £200 a tonne, as they had been over the past two years, but prices were falling and the high cost of production could not be justified if prices were to collapse to the £75 a tonne of ten years ago.

Grimsdale said he realised 20 years ago that his own 300 ha farm was over-mechanised and made a positive decision to start contracting to spread the capital cost and to adopt minimum cultivation to reduce costs.

More recently, precision farming techniques have been adopted, including satellite technology (GPS) for nutrient and yield mapping and the precise targeting of crop inputs, including seeds and fertilisers.

“We aim to secure the highest margins by controlling costs and methods of production,” he said. “But we are also looking to increase long-term productivity and sustainability by adopting a sustainable and environmental approach.”

This approach still involves heavy investment in high-powered machinery, including two 500hp Johne Deere tractors, but cost of production has increased by only 50 per cent per hectare despite diesel, crude oil, steel and tractor costs increasing anything from 200 per cent to 800 per cent and seed, fertiliser, spray and urea costs by up to 150 per cent.

The Grimsdale’s are now convinced they can take things further by adopting non-inversion (nil till) tillage to reduce machinery and fuel costs even further and work with 100hp tractors.