Two upland livestock farmers - one from Ripponden near Halifax and the other from Bolton Abbey in the Yorkshire Dales - have taken up the reins as the elected chairman and vice chairman for the NFU’s West Riding county.
Rachel Hallos is starting her second two-year term as county chairman and Steven Crabtree has joined her as vice chairman, representing more than 1600 farmers and growers across a diverse agricultural area stretching from Goole in the east to Bentham in the west.
Having already completed two years as county chairman, Rachel says she is honoured to have been re-elected and is keen to provide continuity for the county as with Brexit on the horizon, there will be some challenges ahead for local farming businesses.
“Like the rest of the nation, the views of farmers on the best way forward can be very different.” she said. “My challenge as county chairman is to be open to different opinions, try and understand what people want and make sure that these views are passed on to our national team, who are moving heaven and earth to deliver a good deal for our industry.”
Concerned about the potential impact of Brexit on farmers across her patch, Rachel added that she hoped to be able to help NFU members review their businesses and make careful decisions on the way forward.
“There is a lot at stake in our part of the world, with farming a key contributor to our local economy” she said. “We are going to have to work hard over the next two years to support local farm businesses and hopefully give them the tools to navigate what may well be a challenging operating environment.”
A key priority for Rachel so far has been to tackle rural crime and this will continue for her second term. “I want to keep the pressure on local police forces to do more to tackle organised and cross-border crime that so often targets rural businesses,” she said. “We are making progress and have much more productive working relationships with the police, but we can always do more.”
Working alongside Rachel is Steven Crabtree who shares her concerns about achieving a smooth transition as the UK leaves the EU.
“The challenge will be coming through Brexit with some sustainable businesses on the other side and getting the recognition that farming deserves,” he said. “With so many different views on the way forward, it is very difficult to get a consensus but everyone wants more clarity on what we are aiming for.
“We are doing our utmost to highlight the potential impacts of Brexit, with all sectors of the economy clamouring for their concerns to be heard. It’s not going to be simple by any means but we need a lot of vision about what we want for the future.”
Rachel and Steven will also work alongside Goole arable farmer, Tom Bayston, who continues as the county’s elected delegate to the NFU’s national council.