One of the many good things about living in this part of the world is the quality of our food.

Unlike stories of children in inner city concrete jungles in Britain, who hardly know where meat actually comes from, we know exactly where our food comes from but furthermore the produce is from reliable sources and there are many safeguards in place to ensure it’s as healthy as possible.

Some fears have been expressed that changes in trade deals as a result Brexit could mean food being imported which wouldn’t meet our stringent standards.

It’s said that the United States wants to send us chlorinated chicken and hormone-fed beef, which are banned under EU rules. Whether this is part of project fear or not, and aside from all the other political ramifications which are played out day and daily, this is something which will put further pressure on our farming community.

I am, of course, a townie; but in a county like ours even us townies are acutely aware of the value of our farming community around us; not least because of my late dad’s background in agriculture. I remember regular visits to the farmhouse near Ballygawley that he still referred to as “home” over 70 years after he left it as a teenager.

Apart from the introduction of electricity, the little house has barely changed since my father was born, and in his childhood days most families had farms mixed with cows, hens, pigs and crops such as potatoes and oats. He remembers ploughing with horses, and people lived off their own produce as well as selling the surplus.

Simple times. But how times have changed, and while life was tough then it was fairly straightforward.

High intensity farming today is much, much tougher in many ways. Yet we still expect food at reasonable prices and at a high standard.

As a friend of mine said to me, “Farming used to be a way of life, now it’s much more businesslike. Farmers are expected to pay their way.”

We live in an agricultural community, but these days there is a high percentage of part-time farming with many farmers having to undertake other jobs to make ends meet. Although, as my friend told me, the idea of a family unit is still the best model to run a farm.

Brexit is just the latest challenge facing farmers.

Who recalls the BSE crisis in 1996 which took a full 10 years for restrictions to be lifted. Yet resilient farmers stuck with it and got through that challenge.

This week, I’ve listened and watched on the media as people in agriculture talked about the seriousness of two major issues impacting on them now; that is the RHI heating scandal and, secondly, the uncertainty over the future of all-island farming until Brexit is sorted.

There’s no doubt that the “cash for ash” scandal was abused by some, and as the inquiry into it laid bare the role played by political leaders, SPADs and all the rest, we listened with incredulity to some

of the machinations which led directly to the collapse of Stormont. Indeed, the nature of it all gave rise to plenty of black-humoured jokes.

But many farmers who genuinely used the scheme aren’t laughing. It’s emerged that farmers, particularly in poultry, went into serious debt to buy the equipment to run schemes. To do so, the banks were convinced to grant loans by a letter signed by the then Minister, Arlene Foster guaranteeing that the returns from the scheme would remain unchanged in the long term.

Despite this apparent guarantee, the current Secretary of State Karen Bradley has decided to drastically reduce the amounts being paid.

Many people will understand that the massive amounts of money being paid out under the disastrous RHI scheme are unsustainable; however, the massive slash to payments means that the genuine people will still have the running costs and bank repayments, but without the income to pay for them.

Some of their personal stresses and strains were recounted on the Nolan radio programme this week.

It was sad to hear one woman, whose family acted responsibly and undertook loans, say her family is basically facing going to the wall. Another man revealed that he took out loans of £500,000 to be repaid over 10 years. Now he’s in dire straits, having to sell off his tractor just to make a repayment and he’s asking the bank to extend the loan to 15 years.

There are many personal stories of serious hardship on farming businesses as a direct result of the botched scheme.

We should not forget either, that it’s not just the farmers themselves whose livelihoods are under threat. Related businesses in supplies and services, meat plants, machine manufacturers and so on are also worrying about employment.

Unlike the MLAs who created this mess, their salaries don’t continue if they stop working.

And then there’s Brexit. Whatever side of that political debate you’re on, farming is like any business where uncertainty is not good.

On an RTE documentary this week, two Fermanagh farmers with differing viewpoints, John Sheridan and Howard Brooker were interviewed.

John is opposed to Brexit and is particularly gloomy about the prospects for farming after Brexit, using such terms as “We’re not in a good place” and “I don’t want to be part of it.”

He said he can hardly make money at £4 a kilo for cattle, if it goes to 3.60 or 3.70 it would be impossible, especially if he had to compete against two Euro products coming in from “hormone beef” from America, or Brazil and Uruguay. John pointed up the cross-Border nature of farming in Ireland, and how it’s now an all-island business.

Howard Brooker was more pragmatic, and said it was important that the DUP was there to ensure the Border wasn’t down the Irish Sea; the challenge, he felt, was for Leo Varadkar because if he pushed too hard it would be the Republic who would be hit hardest. Howard felt that the Taoiseach and the EU would “blink first.”

In spite of their differing political outlooks, I would suspect that a hard Border and a continuing uncertain outlook would help neither of them.

Farming has changed massively since my father’s childhood; indeed, it’s even changed a lot since his career as an inspector with the Department of Agriculture.

But the resilience and the determination of farmers hasn’t changed through many challenges, including this age of vegetarianism and veganism. And I’m told that upcoming challenges include pressure to reduce production.

We value our traditional way of life, including the benefits of good wholesome food locally produced. So while the politicians take decisions in a wider context, let us not forget the impact on people’s lives.