THERE is little doubt that this early part of autumn has been very kind to the arable farmers in the area, writes Ben Boothman, from Arable Advisor, in Pickering.

Drilling has continued at a pace and for the main part is now complete. It appears to be the current fashion in agriculture to say that our arable soils are “run down” or “seriously depleted”, yet this year they have worked superbly, creating good seed beds with only limited human intervention.

Despite the ongoing dry conditions, the occasional shower has helped keep the drills rolling. Once again there will be less bright yellow oil seed rape in the area.

This is due to a combination of circumstances; firstly, and fore mostly a downward pressure on price and secondly the sheer difficulty in growing the crop. Much has been said and written about the loss of neo nicotinoid seed dressing, which I will not ponder on, however these dressings were important in the successful establishment of rape crops.

Establishment is now much more challenging, and farmers apply multiple insecticides to try and control these early damaging pests.

Unfortunately, this is proving very difficult and many farmers are choosing to grow less oil seed rape and extend the rotation to avoid the repeated use of ineffective insecticides.

At this moment in time, it feels as though agriculture and farming community are in the firing line for all the woes in the world.

For those of you suffering from insomnia may I suggest reading the Agriculture Bill which was recently published. This outlines the Government’s Agricultural Policy going forward post-Brexit. Mr Gove paints a picture of a future utopia where he will deliver a “Green Brexit”.

Only time will tell what this “Green Brexit” is exactly but having seen his education reforms one thing is certain, this will be the largest change in Agricultural policy since joining the European Union in the 1970s.

As most of you will be aware many of the farming community voted to leave and it is no surprise that the general gist of the new Agriculture Bill will be the removal of farm subsidies as they are paid now. There is unlikely to be a total removal and the suggested adoption period is over seven years.

What remains of agricultural support is more likely to be targeted for environmental rewards. Farmers will have to respond by becoming more market focused and more efficient, a challenge many will accept. Would we be competitive in an un-subsidised world?

Looking into the future and to understand what we are likely to face, I took my long-suffering wife on “holiday” to the Prairies, where we visited good friends of mine in Manitoba and North Dakota.

During the “holiday” we visited numerous farms, and it must be said that the Prairies has its own type of beauty which, in Yorkshire parlance, means flat and boring.

This was wall to wall arable farming dominated by wheat, oil seed rape, soya bean, maize and oats. The sheer size and scale is impressive, driving around with temperatures in the mid 20s it seemed idyllic.

Unfortunately, the growing season is short often less than 160 days and winter temperatures have a maximum of -10°C in January. This limits yield potential, and if we add to this the distance required to ship commodities to market means that they have their own challenges.

Economies of scale are balanced with lower yield potential and increased transport costs. Oil seed rape, maize and soya bean are all genetically modified. Will our brave new world post-Brexit mean that we must accept these crops? Would we be able to compete with this large scale arable industry?

I think we can, but only if we are allowed to farm efficiently and sustainably. Food and knowing its provenance, have been an accepted part of the UK high street for many years now.

This should be a cornerstone of the way we promote and produce our food. If this can be done to the same standards in other countries, then it is up to us to be more efficient and market better.