AT LAST, three weeks of more ‘seasonal’ weather with frost and snow to see in the New Year.

It’s been a pleasure to see ‘white’ sheep wandering around fields as opposed to the glaur-covered ewes and lambs which were the norm during November and December.

Mind you, -15°C at the weekend was a bit extreme for water troughs and even heat traced water pipes.

What an absolute tragedy for the Scottish ski industry when some of the best snow conditions for years can’t be exploited as Covid-19 continued to grip the country. It’s not as if it’s a sector which has stable returns in any year, but this year looks as if it could be disastrous yet again.

But it isn’t alone. What about our much-maligned game shooting sector? The season has been totally wiped out with the latest lockdown but there is little reporting of this because the sector is frightened to publicise the losses it is sustaining because it attracts so much negative publicity in normal times.

Those who criticise this sport should realise how important it is to the rural economy across Britain. Rural Wales, Yorkshire, south-west England and many parts of rural Scotland attract £millions in income from visitors taking part in this much-maligned sport.

There will be no Covid-19 compensation for the thousands of gamekeepers, beaters, and those who run gun dogs, many of them part-time farmers or farm workers who will have no alternative source of income.

The hospitality sector which services this industry will also only receive a tiny fraction of compensation for the income loss they have sustained as shooting parties are forced to stay at home.

No one will champion this group of people because it would potentially attract the wrath of the anti-shooting lobby which already gets far too much air time and media coverage.

But, silently, this will cause real hardship in many areas of the country and these folk will join the thousands of others who fall down the ‘cracks’ and get no help through the host of hastily devised support schemes.

Back in the autumn, I wrote a column about why much of agriculture had reasons to be cheerful and as we start 2021 that continues to be the case – certainly compared to many parts of our economy which, like shooting businesses, ski resorts and hospitality are in a desperate position.

Can anyone ever remember the trade for finished lambs and cast ewes being better for such an extended period? Clean cattle prices are on the rise again and so are cull cows, and with the lockdown likely to be with us till the spring, there is no reason that cannot continue.

Too many pigs around in GB, interruptions to killing lines and pressure from German pigmeat have taken the edge off pig prices, but from a record high.

It’s not all good news for livestock farmers as grain and strong straw prices have been firm, but they are still manageable.

With a few exceptions, which, like Covid-19 compensation schemes have ‘fallen down the cracks’, Brexit has come and gone and the world as we know it didn’t come to an end.

Yes, there are issues for the likes of seed potato exports and female breeding sheep exports to Northern Ireland, and no doubt other issues that will need to be resolved, but that was always going to happen.

Hopefully, with the politics out of it, sensible discussions can take place at official level to resolve these problems and for most of them, I’m sure that’s what will happen.

I’m no expert in seed potatoes but surely it can’t be that difficult to argue for equivalent standards which allow EU seed to come to GB to apply to export to the EU.

Similarly, the IT and paperwork issues currently facing cross-border EU trade to and from GB will be resolved. I realise that it’s an absolute pain for those currently caught up in it and costly for some, but the majority of trade is still happening and things will settle down as companies and traders get used to the new rules and regulations with the accompanying bureaucracy.

Maybe some good can come out of this at the same time. Namely, simplification and shortening of supply chains.

It’s fascinating and enlightening to see some of the convoluted supply chains which have been created over the years that most of us aren’t even aware of.

Things like processed food being moved multiple times and thousands of miles to reach consumers because it suited the processor and their retail customers. No real thought about local sourcing or local manufacture with all the economic and emissions benefits that could bring.

Just produce it wherever it is cheapest, stack it high and sell it for buttons seems to be the mantra.

But, it’s only really now that the veil is being lifted on some of this type of trade, particularly for goods being transferred from EU countries through the British mainland to Northern Ireland.

Rather than changing the paperwork to allow it to continue, maybe we should be spending more time looking for more sensible (and sustainable) alternatives to this type of supply chain nearer to home?

Does Percy Pig really have to be manufactured for M and S in Germany – is there nowhere in UK that could make something as complicated as a sugary sweet in the shape of a pig?

Actually, come to think of it, would peoples’ lives really be the poorer if they never saw Percy Pig, or many of these other products caught in this situation again?

I realise that if you are a seafood producer, the current situation is unacceptable and needs resolved quickly. That goes without saying.

But to see UK truckers complaining on TV and reporters full of indignation that Dutch border officials have the cheek to confiscate packs of meat from them is absolutely nuts.

The real story is not the confiscated cold ham for their lunch and the inconvenience to the trucker. The real story is that the Dutch are quite right not to allow processed meat and dairy products across their border in lorry cabs and neither should we.

Does no one remember foot-and-mouth and where it came from in 2001? The real story is we should take border biosecurity more seriously and maybe Brexit gives us the chance to do that – but only if Government can actually be bothered to do anything about it, which they haven’t for at least 20 years.

So, my view of Brexit is pretty straightforward. It’s happened so, love it or hate it, we need to get on with it and look for the opportunities it may bring.

Continually moaning about the inevitable teething problems maybe makes folk feel better, but takes us nowhere. Sort out these issues at official level, behind the scenes – believe me, keeping politics and the media out of it will make that easier.

The real energy and focus should actually be on looking for ways to exploit our new trading arrangements, but that will take vision, hard work and probably some risk.

It’s only the entrepreneurial businesses that will grasp this and there are many of them in the food industry already. As producers, these are the businesses we should supply and support.

With Covid-19 carnage going on around us in the country, which shows no sign of ending, this is not the time to moan about a ham sandwich on the Dutch border or some dodgy paperwork.

There are bigger issues in the world to worry about and we all need to remember our glass in agriculture is very much half full, not half empty, and count our blessings.