It’s hard to believe we are already at the end of 2019 and, if anything, the future for farmers here in Northumberland is less certain than it was in January with the Brexit debacle ongoing, a general election imminent and the weather taking its toll on farms across the region.

In this, my first year as Northumberland county chairman, I have been working hard to tackle both immediate and long term issues.

Bovine TB has reared its ugly head this year, giving us all a wake-up call on the dangers posed by this disease even here in a low risk part of the country. We must all redouble our efforts to manage the risk and make trading decisions accordingly.

From an NFU perspective, I am focused on making sure we give all farmers the opportunity to learn more about this complex disease to help us protect our disease-free status and our healthy cattle and wildlife.

Running a family farm in Northumberland, producing beef, lamb, eggs and renewable energy, I am also very conscious of the need to shout about what we do as farmers and, in particular, give young people as many opportunities as possible to learn about how farmers produce our food, care for the environment and our animals.

It’s clear to all, with the climate change agenda becoming ever more pressing, farmers will have to be more environmentally-aware than ever and with our trading environment changing post-Brexit, we will have to focus hard on meeting and even exceeding people’s expectations of what our industry can deliver.

This will be crucial in the months and years ahead as increasingly we will have to get a better return from the market place – especially with the Basic Payment Scheme being phased out beyond 2021.

I have every confidence that the robust and resilient farming community in Northumberland can rise to this challenge, but the NFU will have to continue lobbying very hard to ensure all our efforts to produce the highest quality food and farmed environment are not undermined by an influx of cheap food from around the world, produced to standards that would be illegal here.

Looking at the challenge ahead, and using hill farming parlance, there’s a big fell to gather, but I hope that by working together we can minimise the difficulties and make the most of new opportunities.

Let’s hope for a peaceful and dry festive season and a better spring to allow us all to get back on an even keel.