With 2019 drawing to a close, it is time for my traditional look back on the year, along with a look forward to what might come our way in 2020.

I am writing following the General Election result, so with a sense of relief that the country can now end political gridlock, even if Brexit may bring further uncertainty as the trade talks are played out. The alternative could have brought in fiscal, legal and land use changes which could have totally altered the rural economy and landscape.

2019 began where 2018 left off – a very dry winter then followed by a very dry spring, resulting in large wildfires across the UK. This prompted me to write an article covering the law around drainage management in the expectation of flooding. The thinking was right, but Mother Nature did not take her revenge until the summer and autumn.

Harvest was a soggy affair and autumn fieldwork was disrupted by downpours. Although some fields in the region were not sown with winter crops, the situation is much worse elsewhere with huge areas of land under water for weeks. What this will mean for harvest and prices next year is, as yet, unknown.

Despite a heavy crop, lamb prices held up reasonably well. The same cannot be said about the abysmal beef prices.

Is the poor beef trade due to the red-meat bashing antics of the environmental lobby or due to some market skulduggery? It is not clear. What is clear is that our grass-based beef and sheep systems are being unfairly bracketed with more intensive systems with questionable environmental credentials that seem to be utilised elsewhere in the world. This is something that really needs to be addressed by the representational bodies in 2020.

The Agriculture Act, which appeared in 2018, proceeded no further, but will no doubt soon be re-introduced. So 2020 will no doubt be hectic as farming’s future passes through Parliament and the crucial trade talks get properly underway.

I do hope that your BPS drops into your account this December, that peace and goodwill appear somewhere soon. I wish you all a merry Christmas and all the very best for 2020, whatever it may bring.