CONSULTATIONS have dominated the first three months of the year.

Red Tractor, livestock transportation and TB eradication have all been running at the same time and I know there have been others that have been issued by Defra and other organisations.

Consultation is vital to ensure that every farmer has an opportunity to give their views on what is being proposed, and that the organisation asking for farmers’ views listens to what is said.

Many members often ask me why they need to respond to a consultation as they feel those asking never listen to them anyway or they feel the NFU should do it on their behalf as part of the subscription.

It is true that the NFU will put a response in to all consultations, no matter how big or small it may be. However, it is vital that members also take the time to make their views known directly as it is often a numbers game - so the more farmers who respond the better. More farmers responding shows the strength of feeling in the industry, and it gives the views of a much wider audience.

The use of the term co-design by Defra, as they develop the future Environment Land Management scheme, is a real concern as they will only talk to the people who they are already engaged with. It is so important that Defra has balanced views on future schemes. They need to know how they will land with all farmers and not those who are already engaged with the environment.There is a real risk of Defra talking in an echo chamber and solely receiving views from those who are already on the environmental bus.

Covid-19 has brought many challenges to supply chains alongside a swell in the numbers of people coming to the countryside.We must turn the challenges of more people coming out to enjoy the countryside into a positive. This will require a huge education programme as there is a whole new audience to engage with.

The Secretary of State George Eustice focused his speech at this year's NFU Conference on future agricultural policy and the delivery of the new schemes under the Environment Land Management banner.

The first scheme out of the blocks will be the Sustainable Farming Incentive which will open for expressions of interest in March or April.

As the fog starts to lift on the timeline for the introduction of the new schemes, there is still a distinct lack of detail on what could be the most important part - the payment rate.

Farming is a long-term business and cropping decisions need to be made months in advance. The lack of detail is making it very hard to plan.

The only detail that they are sticking to is that BPS is being phased out and it will be about 50 percent of current levels by 2024.Some farmers will have to make significant changes to their farming businesses to accommodate for the reduced income.

Please take a little time out of your day, or an evening, to look at the NFU website and watch the speeches again.