Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Subscribers' Newsletter July 2011

May: ISSUE 20-1, published May 8. Changes to the magazine cover have gone down well with farmers and other magazine designers - some even emailed us with their approval!

May: GRASS & MUCK, Stoneleigh  May 18

With minimal crops it was difficult to assess forager and mower performance. I was looking for, and found, some machinery that would do the job cheaper, but most companies were parading ever larger more expensive, high capacity machines. The economics of running these monsters is hard to grasp, and I am still not certain about the effectiveness of clamping when loads are coming in so quickly. I bumped into Hugh Turley from N Ireland, a reader who has sent brilliant forager ideas for  previous issues, and we both looked at the unacceptable level of waste left by the rakes - in some swaths it must have been at least 5%, a lot to leave behind.

The new Farm Safety Charter was launched at Grass & Muck by all the major farming organisations, including CLA. I contacted their Welsh President, William Worsley, who "pledged to improve the safety record of people working in agriculture.. (press release dated Wed 18 May). Having had a practical interest in the subject for many years, and creating a Child Safety on the Farm leaflet, I suggested they promote some practical ideas, such as fixing beacon masts to road going ATVs, using home made spike guards and many other ideas we have published in past issues. Should I be surprised at getting no response? So much for 'pledges'. I’ll need to try harder to interest them in promoting these ideas.


Again, the demo part was hardly taxing or, in many ways, very informative, though it's always good to see kit in action. The PFI Arable Expert, who grows cereals on the Lincolnshire fens, decided to replace his Bateman drill with a modern multi-stage tine machine, and we went through his research and decision processes, which are revealed in full in the forthcoming issue. Choosing the right machine involves a number of issues which, as all machinery buyers know, are often in conflict (I want a bigger machine, but I need it to be less heavy... I want something more complex, but want to pay less money). The drill he bought will be delivered in January next year, in good time to get inside the new Capital Allowance limits which will have a considerable effect on the cost of new machinery - see below.

I had a good meeting with a LloydsTSB agricultural advisor and was surprised to learn the size of their farming department, centred in Bristol. She had never seen our magazine, and thought it would be useful for the staff, who spend much of their time visiting farms and assessing the viability of projects.
I met with Gary Markham, the partner in Grant Thornton Accountants who heads their agricultural team, and we talked about the effects of high cereal prices. Tax Planning, he said, was a necessity for cereal growers, and it was alarming how few have taken an interest in the subject. This was particularly interesting to me, as I was invited to the Chartered Accountants Farming and Rural Business Group annual conference in July. (see below)


Since the start of the year I have had Ben Wheeler of Beach Software in Swansea rebuilding the magazine website, and at the end of the month the work, though not complete, was deemed ready to go live. The new site offers an extra dimension, in as much as individual articles from back issues can be instantly downloaded. At present, the number is a paltry few dozen, but when time permits more will be uploaded. The downloads are 99p, and there's a new free one every month. The internet can become too great a focus and I am constantly having to remind myself that not all farmers are stuck in front of their computers all day, but are doing other far more useful and important jobs, like dagging sheep, baling straw, milking cows and drying grain. For many, the post and paper PFI is the way they like it.

Farm Visits: HEREFORD While I occasionally meet farmers whose business progresses on an even path, many, indeed most, have to make U turns and changes in direction over the years. We visit a farmer whose potato enterprise has been considerably reduced, and whose main work is now contracting, both with his potato equipment and other kit. A qualified ag engineer, he's built some very interesting machinery. Converting artic step trailers for ag use has involved fitting sprung drawbars, and he has done some to his own design, which he drew up having experienced the deficiencies of some manufactured ones. Novel machines include a potato weeder for organic crops, and a beautifully designed square bale squeeze.

LINCOLNSHIRE Some of the most interesting and valuable workshop projects are the smallest, and on this visit I discovered a simple way to make a mobile drill press for a Wolf type power drill. One which enables the user to drill holes through heavy steel that’s in situ - girders, cross members, purlins in buildings, and machinery. This guy drilled a few thousand awkward holes to fix walling in a new grain store - and was drilling them as fast as his mates (one inside the shed, one out) could fix the nuts and bolts.

Tax issues are becoming of increasing importance in farming. For example, the change in Capital Allowances from April 2012 from £100,000 to £25,000 may be widely known about, but do all farmers know what this is going to mean in practice, and what they need to think about doing well before the date? Similarly, people are well aware of the differences in taxation between sole traders and limited companies, but here again the actual figures are not so readily found. Company directors will take loans from the business, and these needed to be reconciled to avoid lodging funds with the Revenue until such time as the loans are paid off - but what are the alternatives? Farm vehicles are a favourite topic - should they be owned by the company or the individual? Here are just a few tax planning issues raised at this conference which we enlarge in the Financial Focus feature in the next issue.

Don’t miss our next issue, published Aug 8.          The annual subscription is just £15.40.
               You CAN afford it, and you WILL benefit from it.

Call 01994 240978 for all subscriptions.       Renew on-line from www.farmideas.co.uk