HE might be stepping into the role of NFU county chairman at a time of uncertainty but Simon Bainbridge is eager to rise to the challenge of representing farmers across Northumberland amidst Brexit.

Simon, who farms suckler cows, breeding ewes and free range layers at Donkin Rigg in Cambo with his wife Claire, said his priorities over the next two years of his term will include fighting for fairer food prices for farmers, and helping to prevent rural communities across the county from being neglected.

“The general feeling is that there is a disconnect between the government and rural communities,” he said. “And that the MPs making decisions which directly effect us aren’t fully aware of what we do here on the ground, and therefore undervalue us.

“I think its important that our MPs get out onto the farms to learn first-hand about what we do, and understand why we’re bargaining for fairer pay for our hard work.”

Along with protecting farmer’s earnings, Simon is keen to help bridge the technological divide between rural communities, compared with cities and towns.

Due to “woeful” internet connection and mobile phone coverage in rural parts of Northumberland, Simon said farmers were restricted from being able to access important research and data, or make improvements to on-farm technology. It also helped with the feeling of isolation.

“Some third-world countries have better access to technology than certain farms in this county do,” Simon said. “Not only is it vital that farmers move with the times, but also that they stay connected with other people, as farming can be a lonely job.”

In his new role Simon has pledged represent each area of farming evenly, from uplands to lowlands to beef and poultry.

“Different businesses have different challenges, so its about protecting each sector individually, along with joining together as an industry to fight for what we all deserve.”

Also newly appointed to the NFU county seat is vice-chairman Tom Richardson who farms with his brother Hugh at Wheelbirks Farm in Stocksfield. Tom will support Simon for two years before stepping up as county chairman himself.

Along with keeping a herd of pedigree Jersey cows, the Richardson family have embraced forestry at Wheelbirks, which Tom hopes other farmers will recognise as a valued contribution to a farm’s income, along with being an asset to the environment.

Tom also hopes to use his time in office to help encourage future generations to enter the industry.

“Farming currently is made up of mostly older people, so we have to start thinking about how we will secure a future for the industry,” he said. “Agriculture needs to be an appealing career for young people, so that it can continue to thrive for generations to come. We don’t lose them to urban environments.We need to show them therefore that farming is a profitable career path, and not just a way of life.”