Introduction – Issue 16

Farming is not the only industry to face tsunami-sized variations in product prices and input costs. Think airlines, oil, retail, manufacturing, restaurants, hair dressers, theatres… I recently had a very interesting conversation with a very senior oil man who explained the hugely difficult and expensive process of shutting down a refinery and the equal cost of starting it up again. He said that Shell, his company, were employing advisors far more than ever before, as the challenges, and costs of wrong decisions are so high.

“We’re excellent at operating plant, but find a second pair of eyes from outside the business is well worth while when looking at the direction the company needs to be moving.” I translated it to farming, and the move toward No-till, and wondered how many farmers turn to a second pair of experienced eyes. Like the oil-man, the good farmer can be excellent at squeezing profit from a relatively static situation, but may not have the eyes which see woods rather than trees when it comes to the long term.

Do you go green and go with the flow, or be controversial and opt to continue focussing on production? If it’s production, the perceptive long term advisor might well focus on climate change and the possible shortage of water, while the farmer may look at a new harvester or some extra land, issues which are shorter term. Farm planning needs a view over the horizon which might appear some way off at present, but will as sure as eggs is eggs come all too quickly.

Finding an advisor with vision who looks beyond the present is difficult. Years ago the avuncular bank manager performed as general consultant, advising on loans and farm development, and they have largely been taken over by consultants who want to do indepth surveys, before hopefully reaching a conclusion.

A Happy Christmas to all Direct Driller readers.