The NFU in Northumberland has a new partnership at the helm.
Simon Bainbridge and Tom Richardson have started a two-year term of office as chairman and vice chairman, representing more than 800 farmers and growers.
Simon, an organic poultry and livestock farmer from Cambo, said he is looking forward to working as part of the NFU’s regional team, but says that with Brexit on the horizon, there will be some challenges ahead for all local farming businesses.
He said: “In simple terms, Brexit can make or break farming, but it will be hard for long-term businesses like ours to make changes quickly. Above all we need a sensible and pragmatic approach from government to give us a fighting chance of rising to the challenge and seeking out the opportunities that will undoubtedly occur.”
Simon, who also sits on the NFU’s regional livestock board, said it was important to maintain a strong focus on animal health and welfare as the pace of Brexit increases.
Another priority is to do more to support the mental health and wellbeing of the local farming community.
“As county chairman I really want to take this issue seriously and do more to support the farming families that are at the heart of our industry.”
Working alongside Simon is Tom Richardson, a mixed dairy and arable farmer from Stocksfield, who is also concerned about achieving a smooth transition as the UK leaves the EU.
He wants to ensure that the next generation of farmers inherit a thriving industry and that their customers have more of a connection with how food is produced.
“It will be crucial to step up our efforts to connect with the next generation of shoppers and to reduce the disconnect between our towns and rural areas,” he said.
“We welcome thousands of families to our farm every year and enjoy showing them round. I am always amazed at how interested people are in how food is produced and this is a conversation we certainly need to be having on farms across the county.”
Simon and Tom will also work alongside Morpeth livestock and arable farmer, Fred Ryle, who continues as the county’s elected delegate to the NFU’s national council.