This year has been one of the most turbulent, weather-related years on record and unfortunately, the challenges did not end there.

From ongoing high input prices and poor returns, to plans being paused to tackle TB in wildlife in Northern Ireland (NI), farmers faced many such challenges.

However, despite all the difficulties we have faced, the potential and importance of UK farming and food production is substantial going forward.

Agriculture is critical to tackling two of the biggest challenges that we face at a national and global level – producing enough food to feed a growing population, while also tackling climate change.

It is disappointing that only 27 per cent in the UK recognise locally-produced food as being important, but there are huge gains to be made through collaboration and engagement with the agri-food industry, government and academics.

Farmers are extremely vulnerable to elements that are out of their control such as extreme weather events, geopolitical tensions, changes to policy and production costs.

However, ensuring the marketplace is a level playing field for our farmers, and creating polices that enhance food production and environmental incentives that support family farms to remain viable, will support our members to invest in the future of farming.

The ethos behind our new agriculture policy is to help farmers to reduce emissions further, while supporting local food production and farm profitability.

Change is often challenging and yet, as we look forward, we can reflect that change has been a constant in the agricultural sector.

The agri-food sector in NI is seeking to address the sustainability challenge. Our role has been to ensure that those who would advocate to shrink our food production, are aware of the many initiatives being undertaken by our farmers.

NI is setting a high global standard as the first region to establish an extensive baseline of all farms on soil nutrients, alongside a sustainable ruminant genetics programme to improve the efficiency of our livestock.

Carbon surveys, required by both government and those we supply, will provide the crucial evidence that our production systems are amongst the most efficient in the world.

It's equally important that farmers support the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) to tell their stories, championing food production and the conservation work they are doing on farm.

We are aware that quite often, local produce comes with a higher price tag and for many families across the UK, budgets are tight.

This will be felt even more after Christmas. However, quality food is vital for our daily health and wellbeing, and on average, we only spend 14 per cent of our income on food.

Finally, I wish you all a prosperous and healthy New Year from myself and the entire UFU team, and please remember to stay safe when out and about on farms.