FARMERS are used to dealing with changes to the weather and adapt accordingly, 2021 will throw many more challenges and opportunities at the farming community and again they will adapt accordingly, writes David Hall, NFU north west regional director.

This health pandemic has left no community untouched. In many ways the pandemic and associated reduction in normal life has really shown the extent to which the basics in life are important above everything else: good health, good food and a thriving natural environment. There are at least two things on that last list that we know farmers are so well placed to deliver and will continue to do so.

The COVID pandemic understandably is the number one priority in government, but the policy machinations which affect the future of your farm also continue. Defra’s Agricultural Transition Plan (ATP) launched in November will now really start to grow legs – with a multitude of consultations coming on things like the lump sum payment, de-linking payments and more detail in due course on ELMs in moving to ‘public money for public goods.’ Defra are reaching out to the NFU to help bring groups of farmers together to give their views on particular aspects of the new programme. I chaired a group looking at how the large grant scheme, £35,000 plus, should be delivered and what should be included in the list. It was a productive meeting and great to hear one of the members say that it was refreshing to see “Defra are listening”. The direction of travel is now set but I do hope that with ongoing conversations with Defra we can steer a path that includes productive agriculture alongside nature recovery.

Connected to so much of this work for the future is also the 25 year Environment Plan, the Environment Bill that delivers it and the Government pledge for Net Zero. This points towards one thing; the COP26 United Nations climate change conference to be held in Glasgow in November. NFU nationally is really ramping our work to help you on your farm start to play your part in net zero as we marry action to create environmental benefits and increased productivity at the same time.

The ATP and the move to Net Zero are two of our regional priorities for this year, underpinned by a renewed focus on getting the best from the political relationships we hold at and ensuring that the farming and food voice is heard loud and clear. You have heard me say it before, but it is worth repeating again – constituency MPs are now the key decision makers on so much future policy that will affect your farm. Please engage with them, and if you need their contact details, NFU briefing materials or for us to join you in a meeting then please contact your county adviser.

We have provided opportunity for all members in all the different sectors to join meetings with Red Tractor to understand their standards review, and I urge you to respond to the consultation – the deadline is March 5. On rural crime we continue to engage with all Police Forces across our region, and the Lock it or Lose it campaign which is running in Cumbria was highlighted at a national NFU round table event looking at quad bike theft.