SEPTEMBER is the month that we usually have the final events in the North West’s show calendar. Westmorland show and the Cheshire ploughing match are two of the highlights of the year as they are the final opportunity we have to chat with members over coffee and cake in a marquee before our meetings move back to in door venues. Sadly Covid 19 has put the brakes on all interaction with members apart from looking at each other on a screen. I am constantly asking for guidance of when we can start to do face to face meetings with members and I do hope that the announcements that will be soon be made will allow gatherings in October. The restrictions that have been imposed on Greater Manchester and other parts of Lancashire and Yorkshire are a sharp reminder that we are not out of the woods by a long way. The incidence of cases is rising sharply in these areas and the threat of a local lockdown is very real. I do think as farmers we are very lucky to live as we do very often without close neighbours and it is very different in neighbouring towns to me of Rochdale and Oldham with high populations.

One of the issues that has not gone away is the incidence of rural crime. All counties have seen an increase over the summer whether it be fly tipping which is on a commercial scale in some places with waggon loads of waste being tipped in some instances. The other area is machinery theft. One of the major strengths of the region is the M6 but we also see it as one of the major weaknesses. The road network North to South or East to West on the A roads is good which means that machinery can be moved out of the region quickly. Quad bikes seem to be the flavour of the month again and I believe that there are instances where other items such as Stihl saws are being left which at one time would have gone too. The County Advisers and group offices are working hard with local police to increase the levels of policing in the target areas but we must ensure that farmers we are doing our bit to keep machinery locked up when not in use and do our best to keep it secure. We know from speaking to the police that the criminal gangs are moving around and as individual forces up their game all the criminals do is move to the next area with easy pickings and so on. Sadly it is a case of lock it up or lose it.

On a policy front I hope as many members as possible to a little time to reply to the ELMS consultation or conversation as DEFRA called it. I did join one of the webinars and the question was posed asking what can be done to make the scheme attractive to farmers. The over whelming answer was money. Farmers want the scheme to be as easily accessible as possible and reward them for the work they currently do for the environment.

The dairy contracts consultation is due to close mid September and I would encourage all dairy producers to engage with this process. It is vital that we have a balanced view from all producers regardless of where or who you sell your milk to. We need fairness in the supply chain with shared risk and reward.