It’s hard to believe that the grass is still growing at this time of year and ground conditions remain excellent in many parts of the country.

This is all great news for sheep men, who are over wintering ewes on rented ground at the present time. There’s no doubt about it – 2021 is the year that just keeps on giving, certainly in terms of grass.

The shortest day is now behind us. And we can look forward to the prospect of coming away from the bleak mid-winter with genuine hope and expectation.

Looking back on the year

The one great opportunity offered by the Christmas holidays is the fact that the few days – when life isn’t just as hectic – allow us to sit back and take stock of what has worked, and not worked, during the previous 12 months.

For me the greatest reassurance that came out of 2021 was the trend that farmers are, once again, being appreciated by society at large.

Adding to this is my true belief that climate change, and the even more pressing challenge of global food security, will both be converted into sustainable income opportunities for farmers as they strive to secure sustainability for their own businesses.

Farming for carbon is a phrase that will be used a lot in 2022. It is a principle based on the premise that farm land can be used to store vast quantities of carbon, thereby reducing the climate change pressure that confronts us all.

As society as a whole looks to the future, there is no reason why farmers cannot produce the food that we need while, at the same time, managing their soils to ensure that they sequester the maximum amounts of carbon possible on an ongoing basis.

But is it really possible to ride both horses at the same time? I believe it is. But it’s a case of following the science and putting the proper farm-based systems in place.

Scientists play catch-up 

To be honest our scientists are still playing catch up, where the response of the farming industry to climate change is concerned.

We still don’t have an accurate fix on how much carbon our soils can sequester on an annual basis. Meanwhile, the carbon calculators that have been developed up to this point are still pretty rudimentary.

Obviously, all of this will change as we head out into 2022 and beyond. But one issue will always remain front and centre for farmers.

It doesn’t matter if we are talking about food security, climate change or the general interaction of farming with the environment, farmers must get paid properly for the goods and services they provide.

This has not been the case up to now. One can only hope that this matter – which is of fundamental importance to every farm business in the country – is actively addressed in 2022.