Oliver Walston: At a time like this, agriculture is the business to be in


Related Topics

Amid the encircling economic gloom in Britain today, alert observers will occasionally notice small beams of light which illuminate the night sky. This phenomenon is caused not by meteorites entering the atmosphere but by two or more farmers meeting for a drink.

Happiest among this tightly knit band of economically motivated men are the sheep farmers who are enjoying the sort of prosperity which would have been unimaginable to their grandfathers.

A fat lamb (ie the animal before it becomes lamb chops) today is worth around £100, which is as much as a tonne of wheat. Two years ago the same farmers were suicidal because their lambs fetched less than £50 each. A close second place in the happiness stakes (steaks?) come the pigmen who, after some very lean years, are today at least as happy as pigs in muck are reputed to be. Other livestock farmers are, it is true, less exultant than their shepherding brethren but they are still reasonably content. Milk producers are, however, a very mixed bunch. Those who sell to Tesco for 27p a litre are exceptionally cheerful while the majority, who receive nearer 20p per litre from the Dairy Farmers of Britain, are only making a small profit. Beef producers, together with poultrymen, have seen the cost of their feedstuffs rise steeply but they can still make a bob or two today.

I myself am an arable farmer and today, let's face it, I am a miserable old git. One year ago I actually sold a load of wheat for £200 a tonne. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. Today a tonne of wheat is worth the same as a fat lamb: £100. Meanwhile the cost of my fertilisers has risen by 300 per cent. And as if that were not enough, I have rarely seen my crops looking worse after the coldest and wettest winter for a decade or two. Those fields of wheat and oilseed rape which are now starting to grow again are being attacked by waves of pigeons which act like Stuka dive-bombers. And what the pigeons miss, the hordes of rabbits manage to munch.

Yet in spite of the fact that my own farm looks so miserable today, I must admit that every night before I go to bed I give thanks for the fact that I am a farmer and not a shopkeeper or an estate agent or a car dealer. Compared to every profession on the high street, farmers have nothing to worry about today. Well, almost nothing. My current preoccupation is whether to receive my annual subsidy cheque in euros or pounds. It's tough being a farmer.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Labour leader Ed Miliband unveils Labour's pledges carved into a stone plinth in Hastings  

Election 2015: Smash the two-party system! Smash the voting system!

Armando Iannucci
Tactical voting is a necessary evil of the current first-past-the-post system, where voters vote against what they do not want rather than in favour of what they do  

Election 2015: Voting tactically has become more fraught in new political order

Michael Ashcroft
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power