Rachel Hallos talks about taking the West Riding NFU chair for a second term

One West Riding farmer is determined to stay positive in the face of all the challenges UK farming is facing at the moment.

Rachel Hallos takes on a second term as chair

Rachel Hallos farms with husband Stephen at the Yorkshire Water-tenanted, 2,000-acre Beeston Hall Farm, near Ripponden.

She has recently taken on the role of West Riding NFU County Chairman for a further two years and is currently the North-East Area NFU regional chairman.

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In my near three decades of interviewing farmers I cannot recall the same person being a county chairman for four years successively, although I”m sure someone will put me right.

Certainly very few will have taken on the role in such a short time after initially getting involved.

“For me it was the referendum in 2016 that made me want to find out more,” says Rachel.

“Our farm has been through some very difficult times and we found solutions through the NFU.

“I feel that the organisation has so much to offer.

“I try to be open. We can’t all be experts at everything, and I don’t try to blow smoke up people if I don’t know something.

“I’m now in my third year as West Riding NFU county chairman. To me it’s unfinished business, there is so much going on that I want to see through.

“I find the whole process of bringing things about unbelievably fascinating and fulfilling.

“The Agriculture Bill, as it stands at the moment doesn’t deliver what it needs to deliver. It doesn’t do everything it could potentially do, and it doesn’t talk about food. I know they (the Government) are talking about covering the food standards side in the Trade Bill.

“There has been talk of assuring farming of the same support as was received through the EU, but as yet there are a lot of ifs, buts and maybes.

“We want to know how UK agriculture can survive, how we can compete, against other imports from other countries and the Agriculture Bill is seen by many as a once in a generation opportunity to sort out the level playing field they’ve been wanting for years.

“The predominantly pro-Brexit cabinet appears to have a lot of free traders who believe in complete access to all markets both for imports and exports, and as such I don’t think they like anything that gets in their way, such as putting on additional wording about standards.

“I really hope I’m wrong, and that through the Agriculture Bill and Trade Bill, food entering the UK will be monitored on grounds of health and animal welfare, because I believe UK agriculture can deliver so much more than purely getting paid ‘public money for public goods’, as it appears to be all about at present.

“What the talks about the Agriculture Bill have succeeded in doing is getting together what can sometimes be a fragmented number of organisations that represent farming, food and the countryside.

“That cohort of farm and countryside-based representatives is now pulling together.”

Mrs Hallos said she loved the industry and the endless possibilities it provided, but said we all need to look at things from a different perspective.

“Look at what is happening. For instance, children are going unfed while we are tipping milk away because it isn’t needed in the catering and restaurant world at present. Piles of potatoes are rotting instead of them being available to feed these who need them. What can we do about that? Ninety-eight per cent of baby milk is imported. Why can’t we come up with a processing plant for baby milk in the UK?”

While she has plenty of work to do with the NFU, Rachel and her family have been running the primarily livestock farming enterprise at Beeston Hall. The farm which overlooks the two reservoirs of Baitings and Ryburn, currently has 200-head of pedigree Salers cattle, of which 90 are breeding cows, and 350 Scottish Blackface X Lonk breeding ewes put to the Texel to create store lambs for market at Skipton.

Son Sam, 23, who helps a local agricultural contractor, and daughter Anna, 20, who has just completed her foundation degree in agriculture at Askham Bryan College, near York, are also involved with the farm and its additional stewardship management. In December 2018, they also added holiday accommodation in the form of The Cottage.

Lockdown on the farm at Beeston Hall hasn’t impacted massively at present during lambing time.

“Sam said that it’s like when he and his sister were kids again, but I know every single farming commodity has been affected in some way.

“When it comes to farming there is one thing that makes all the difference though – and that’s what falls out of the sky.

“Many of my members will be more praying for rain right now more than praying for a change to the Agriculture Bill.”