Bad weather has made this most difficult year in farming for 40 years, says former High Sheriff of Lincolnshire
A highly decorated northern Lincolnshire farmer has told how weather conditions on both sides of the Atlantic have made 2012 "the most difficult year" in his 40-year career.
John Godfrey CBE chairs the Agricultural and Horticultural Development Board.
He farms alongside his brother and two nephews from Elsham, growing cereal, sugar beet, vining peas, oil seed rape and potatoes between the Humber and the Wash.
Mr Godfrey spoke as he officially opened the AKP Group's new headquarters and expanded potato handling facilities on the neighbouring Elsham Wold Industrial Estate – as featured on page one of August's Business Telegraph.
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He said: "This has been a very odd year with a very dry first three months when we managed to drill sugar beet and plant potatoes, followed by a wet April when we did nothing on the land.
"May to July has been wet and cold.
"This has resulted in a very poor pea crop, wheat that flowered for weeks and is yielding less than previous years with poor bushel weights.
"Having said that, wheat is at a very high price so cereal farmers should still be in profit.
"The outlook for some of the other farming sectors is bleak.
"Our potato yields will be down.
"Quality in terms of size and skin finish will be compromised by the weather."
And the opposite conditions in the US are also making the pig-product element of farming a costly business.
Mr Godrey's farming business includes 6,500 sows, whose progeny are reared to 105kg before heading to the slaughter house, with much of the resulting pork and bacon heading Morrisons' way, just like AKP Group's potatoes.
He said: "Because of the heat wave and drought in the States, soya has shot through the roof.
"This has meant an increase in costs for our pigs of over 20p a kg, which has pushed us and the vast majority of producers into huge losses.
"This year has been the most difficult year for farming in the 40 years that I have been involved."
Mr Godfrey, a former High Sheriff of Lincolnshire and chairman of the University of Lincoln, from where he was given an honorary doctorate, was awarded the CBE in 1998 for services to agriculture.
He is also a Freeman of London and a liveryman of the worshipful company of farmers.
Appointed chairman of the Agricultural and Horticultural Development Board last May, it has an income of more than £65-million, which is used on research, knowledge transfer, promotion and market intelligence.
The Potato Council is one of six divisions, which itself has an income of £7-million.
"This 2012 season has reminded us how fragile both our production capacity and self-sufficiency are," he said, underlining his hopes that genetic modification to control potato blight will become acceptable.
Mr Godfrey also congratulated AKP's directors on "having the vision and nerve to invest so heavily in the British potato industry".
For a full report and pictures from the opening – see next month's Business Telegraph supplement, published within your Scunthorpe Telegraph on September 20.