Gleanings - AF Weekly news summary
13th December 2023

Here’s what caught our eyes and ears in the agri news from UK and further afield in the last week.


Trading natural capital to boost farm incomes

From January 2024, Schedule 7A of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 requires house builders to deliver at least 10% improvement in biodiversity on sites where they are active. This is an opportunity for farmers to trade in their own biodiversity net gains (BNG), selling improvements above their own legal requirements to those who need BNG but can’t deliver. This offsetting is already well established in carbon markets, and looks set to become the norm in other areas too.

Farmers Weekly reports on the Environmental Farmers Group which has a membership of 268 farmers who look after a total of 146,800ha from Lincolnshire down to Dorset. 45 of their members are benchmarking their natural capital with a view to trading nutrients and biodiversity.

And NIAB have communicated in the Future Farming Resilience newsletter that “From today (11th December), you can apply for grant aid through a pot of money in The Natural Environment Investment Readiness Fund (NEIRF) designed to help farmers attract private investment in nature. 

Applications opened on Monday 11 December 2023 with a deadline of 16 February 2024. 

Individual grants of £10,000 to £100,000 are available to each project to develop to the point that they are ready to attract private sector investment. In total, £5 million is available. 

As Members wrestle with how to fill the gap left by BPS (which has not been filled by SFI) entering these markets may be a sound way to meet the Government’s environmental objectives, do the right thing for your ecology and earn valuable income.


More beet brinkmanship reports that British Sugar has made a new offer following weeks of talks with NFU Sugar, offering growers a fixed price option of £40/t or £38/t plus market-linked bonus.

So far the NFU Sugar Board has not agreed this new deal for the 2024-25 contract year, despite British Sugar saying the deal was the result of “intense negotiations” with the NFU.

Farming UK write “British Sugar’s revised offer includes a fixed price option at £40/t, matching the price for the current crop, or a £30/t plus a market-linked bonus. Growers will also see price negotiations start in May each year and an escalation and dispute resolution process ending no later than 31 October.”

Michael Sly, who is chair of the Sugar Board said the union was “astounded” that British Sugar would “choose to move to a costly arbitration process in preference to reaching agreement on this”.

“Last week, hundreds of growers attended NFU Sugar meetings to voice their support.

British Sugar can be in no doubt of the strength of feeling amongst beet growers and support for NFU Sugar as the growers’ collective representative body.”


What are the chances of that? Diddly squat!

Love him or loathe him Jeremy Clarkson is set to be on our screens a while longer. Series 3 of Clarkson’s farm has wrapped and is in post production, and a fourth series has been confirmed. Clarkson and his team Kaleb Cooper and Charlie Ireland are fast becoming agriculture’s most powerful influencers. Cooper even funds a bursary for two students at the Royal Agricultural University.

Whilst the show is entertainment, and there is a lot more drama than actual farming, Clarkson has become an important and often articulate advocate for agriculture. He has highlighted the abundance of DEFRA red tape, the high cost of getting crops and livestock to market, the low incomes and never-ending parish, local and national bureaucracy.

And his voice is widely heard because his eight million followers on X alone dwarf other national farming leaders – Minette Batters has 24,400, Steve Barclay 60,100, NFU 86,500 and Farmers Weekly 100,000 – which between them about 3.5% of Clarkson’s reach.


Feeling seedy?

Landowners are being encouraged to apply for two new grants from DEFRA which aim to increase domestic production of trees and seeds.

The Tree Production Capital Grant and the Seed Sourcing Grant, worth over £2.7m, supports efforts to build nursery capacity and boost the UK trees and seeds supply chain. The funding will increase UK production of trees and seeds and support investments in expansion, automation and mechanisation of facilities and equipment.

As there is a global shortage of seed coupled with ambitious plant to support the planting of trees in England (see Gleanings passim) Defra said it was vital that farmers, foresters and landowners helped improve the quantity, quality, diversity, and biosecurity of UK seed supply.


And finally Tweet of the week…

Two Dad jokes this week.