The Courier & Advertiser (Perth and Perthshire Edition)

Grazing plight illustrate­s law of unintended consequenc­es

- peter stewart

Many years ago when I was on holiday I picked up a book which was entitled World Agricultur­e in Disarray.

This scholarly work, although outdated now, showed how every change to agricultur­e support produced unintended consequenc­es.

Any farmer trying to take grazing elsewhere this year can swear to that fact.

Reports are coming in of people losing grazing they have had reliably in previous years, with at least one Highland Perthshire farmer having to sell cows because of this.

Others have been forced to take fields at similar rental despite the owner claiming the entitlemen­t, which clearly cannot continue.

Others are not quite so bad, but trying desperatel­y to make the estates see sense, and look to the longterm.

It is often not the estates which are the guilty parties, rather the factoring firm, looking to get as much from the tenants as possible, giving the excuse that they mustn’t lose the entitlemen­ts for good.

Surely the best way forward is for the estate to realise that the rental income will reflect the value of the entitlemen­t, and a simple contract will ensure the entitlemen­t remains with the estate although claimed yearly by the grazer.

In all fairness, one of the great landed estates, in it for the long term, has reached the same conclusion, although they have blotted their copybook in other ways.

A large well-run farm is coming back to them from a tenant after close on 100 years.

Other tenants would have taken it for sons, and young entrants everywhere would have given eye teeth for a start like this. The farm is to be contract farmed. Is this to be the future? Short-term thinking, longterm fees?

Who looks after the drains, sheds, roofs, fences and houses? Who bears the losses in bad years? If this estate can take this view after all these years, can others “advised” by this firm follow suit?

This may not bother some in secure tenancies, but we all surely wonder how young lads get a start nowadays.

Contract farming is no answer to this, as establishe­d farmers like myself have the combines, sprayers and drying facilities, and will blow any offer they make out the water.

My grandfathe­r started out with a small rented farm, some cows and a line of credit in Paisley Mart.

He worked up through bigger farms, but no one can do that with dairying now.

You might well say that the best way of getting a foot-hold is through sheep and seasonal grazing.

Only one problem there, then!

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