I'M writing this on the day that the next tranche of restrictions of the Covid-19 lockdown are lifted and hopefully by the time you are reading it, there will be the opportunity for a pint and a meal in a beer garden, writes Farmer columnist David Hall.

As the country opens-up, so does the countryside. That is why the NFU has taken the lead to work very closely with Natural England in the re-writing of the Countryside Code.

We’ve worked together on the publication of new signs for farms and footpaths as we try to avoid the problems we have previously faced in many areas.

Please download the new signs via our special access hub on the NFU website to understand the changes.

The countryside is attracting new visitors who have not been before, so we need to work together to show them how the countryside can be enjoyed by everyone. What is seen as a playground for many is in fact the farmers’ workplace and where food is produced, and the environment managed.

The spring season means a very practical focus on farms, and we have taken a similarly practical approach to policy with one of our regional priorities: rural crime.

We have one eye on the Police and Crime Commissioner elections coming up on 6 May, and recently held successful local meetings where we were able to speak to the police about rural crime topics. This work is feeding into our round of MP meetings on rural crime, in addition to meeting with the different PCC candidates standing for election.This focus on an ever-present issue for so many of you in farming is also part of our wider national approach on ‘levelling up.’

With NFU Mutual estimating the costs in 2020 of rural crime at £54.3 million, and with a disparity between police funding spend per head of population in urban areas versus rural areas, you can begin to see why this is a priority on farm and for us in policy. I urge you to seek out your PCC candidates in your area, question them and please do vote.

As spring work continues on farms, Defra is continuing to sow the seeds of change in policy too with a number of consultations now imminent as the industry works its way through the transition set out at the end of last year.

We can expect to see a consultation soon on the lump sum exit payments proposed in the Agricultural Transition Plan, as well as a consultation on the de-linked payments.The transition away from BPS is on many farmers’ minds as they plan. The level of uncertainty is clearly visible as the National Farmers’ Union’s (NFU) latest Confidence Survey reveals that one of the biggest issues causing concern is the phasing out of BPS. A total of 78% of the 662 NFU members surveyed said they believe the withdrawal of direct payments will have a negative impact on their business.

This was the number one issue above changes to input prices and increased regulation. I hope that as the months go by, Defra will start to give greater clarity about what future schemes will look like and farmers can start to plan with certainty and build on the positive market signals.