We were promised that the days of the slipper farmers were over. But it was all a pipe dream as figures unearthed by The Scottish Farmer in our front page story have revealed.

The loophole route to extracting public funds for little or no farming effort was supposed to have been closed off by subsequent changes to the way farm support has evolved since headage payments were dropped. Not so.

Worryingly for those ‘active’ farmers out there, it would appear that the slipshoe money – or should that be slip shod? – is disappearing at a rate of knots down the same plughole that a lot of ‘environmental’ and ‘tree-planting’ cash has already gone. Of course, much of it is already disguised as being paid for ‘alternative production’ which to you and me means doing hee-haw, but being suitable for scrub land, for wild flowers and the open-toed sandal-wearing brigade to gambol through with their butterfly nets.

We have to wonder whether this is all part of a grand plan dreamt up by civil servants to re-wild Scotland, without actually having a programme to do such. The impact of much of this is the same – no livestock or cropping to top up atmospheric methane.

Despite Holyrood protestations that Scotland’s farm support system is and will remain substantially different to the production limiting standards introduced in England, allowing slipper farmers to proliferate here at considerable cost, delivers the same outcome. All the more important then for the Agricultural Reform Implementation Oversight Board (ARIOB) to come clean on what is being proposed for ‘real’ farmers north of the Border.

Its elephantine gestation period – with a rare few methane-reducing burps along the way – makes it long ‘overdue’ for spitting something out. It would be quite fitting that at this busy time for calving and lambing, if something was to be born out of ARIOB’s hard work to give a clear route map forward for those setting out on the next production cycle.

We can only hope that not many of the sensible options become mired in the glaur, while some of the dafter inputs from pen-pushers are droont at birth!

Classic trade

On a completely different tack, it has been amazing how farming’s yesteryear has suddenly become valuable again. You only have to clock some of the high flying vintage and classic tractor prices to appreciate that those old Fergies, Nuffields and Internationals should have been kept!

That said, the new kit ain’t cheap either and the days of discounts are well and truly behind us. Nothing gets money off these days.

Sixty years ago, just about every piece of farming kit could be bought for four-figures; 30 years ago, some things ranged into the heady five figures. But now, six figures is quite normal and there will be some top-end machines that will make £0.5m. At least slipper farmers will be able buy one to stick in a shed for a time when they become ‘classics’ – more money for doing hee-haw!