This week in farming: Politics, nature and latest new kit

© Valtra


Hello and welcome to This Week in Farming, your regular round-up of the best Farmers Weekly content from the past seven days.

Here’s a selection of the key topics the FW team have been focused on as party conference season kicked off and the latest State of Nature report once again pointed the finger at intensive farming.

Politics, politics

The Liberal Democrats kicked off its autumn conference in an upbeat mood in Bournemouth, with a clear aim to target the so-called “blue wall” constituencies, where it believes its candidates might oust any sitting Conservatives at the next general election.

As part of the process, the party promised an extra £1bn in funding for agriculture, taking the total UK pot to £4.4bn should they come to power, with much of it targeted to more nature-friendly farming.

The party also passed a wide-ranging motion, setting out its priorities for the rural economy, with a particular focus on food security and trade.

Former party leader and rural affairs spokesman Tim Farron also used an NFU fringe meeting to lambast the Tories’ record in government, warning that the steep cuts in Basic Payment Scheme funding, which have not been fully returned to farmers, is putting their livelihoods at risk.

The Conservatives struck back, saying the £1bn funding pledge was uncosted, and claiming the Lib Dems wanted to “take us back into the EU and the hated Common Agricultural Policy”.

State of Nature

Farming’s environmental impact came in for further scrutiny with publication of the State of Nature report, which is put together by a consortium of conservation groups every few years.

As ever, intensive agriculture was blamed for the 19% drop in species abundance since the 1970s, with birds and pollinators badly affected.

But the NFU mounted a strong defence, pointing to ongoing efforts by farmers to work with and restore nature through hedge planting and flower margin creation, for example.

Pro-science think tank Science for Sustainable Agriculture said the report also ignored the enormous progress made by Britain’s farmers in the area of precision agriculture and low-till cultivation.

Green lobbyists also took a pop at Defra this week for what they said was a “rowing back” on plans to require housebuilders to deliver 10% biodiversity net gain (BNG) in relation to construction sites.

Initial fears that the policy was being kicked into the long grass were quickly dismissed by government, which said BNG would be a legal requirement from January 2024, just two months later than originally planned.

Welsh angst

Welsh farmers and landowners expressed their anger and frustration, as rural affairs minister Lesley Griffiths announced the new Habitat Wales Scheme would be open for applications from Friday 29 September, but she was not able to say how much farmers would be paid.

The scheme is supposed to bridge the gap between the old Glastir agri-environment scheme and the new Sustainable Farming Scheme, which starts in 2025.

But with government money clearly short – to the tune of £900m according to Ms Griffiths – farmers say they have been put in an “impossible position”.

Meanwhile, English farmers looking to join Defra’s new Sustainable Farming Incentive have had their lives made a little easier, with the setting up of a new online landing page designed to simplify the process.

It is understood that more than 10,000 farmers have now submitted expressions of interest in the scheme.

Machinery news

In more news…. the Farmers Weekly machinery team has been as busy as ever, with a number of new pieces of kit placed under the editorial microscope. 

Machinery editor Oli Mark takes a detailed look at tractor manufacturer Valtra’s revamped flagship S-series range, with deliveries anticipated in the middle of next year.

He also finds time to study JCB’s latest addition to its Loadall range, in the form of the new compact 530-60 Agri Super. 

There’s a quick look a Horsch’s new Xeric 14FS fertiliser spreader, “designed for high-output, accurate applications using a wide range of fertiliser products, with boom widths of 36m and 48m”.

And then there is Makita’s first cordless air compressor…


If a picture speaks a thousand words, then this year’s Farmers Weekly Harvest Photography Competition is a veritable magnum opus, with more than 1,600 brilliant entries received.

Selecting an overall winner was not easy, but the judges finally settled for a stunning shot by Jacob Dennis from Cambridgeshire.

It shows his brother Joshua driving the New Holland TF78 combine and Joshua’s partner Kate grain carting during their first-ever harvest as council farm tenants in Cambridgeshire.

The image graces this week’s print front cover.

And if you’re in the mood for more photography, then our annual competition for amateur photographers, covering eight categories, opens next week. Check next week’s magazine for details.

The results will be shared in our Christmas double issue on 15 December. 

Listen to the FW podcast

Don’t forget the latest edition of the Farmers Weekly podcast with Johann Tasker and Hugh Broom.

Listen here or bring us with you in the cab by downloading it from your usual podcast platform.