We are busy drilling winter wheat, the last field went in yesterday (October 15) after potatoes. What a pleasant contrast this autumn to last year when all of the dairy herd had been housed for over a month because of the desperately wet conditions and we were struggling in the mud to get the planting done. Here's hoping that the open weather lasts a little longer.

A good open autumn will also take the pressure off the livestock men, if they can keep cattle out for another month it will save on straw, which has become so scarce and valuable this year. With such a poor harvest, straw has been at a real premium in the Midlands, the shortage compounded by so much being used for the foot and mouth funeral pyres. I can see it taking a couple of years to build up reasonable reserves again.

Herefordshire has been allocated 'At Risk' status in recent days, which is a small step forwards from 'High Risk', although this hasn't made any difference at all to applications for stock movements which we still have to go through day after day.

A lot has been written in the farming press of the opinions of the DEFRA top table that subsidies are to disappear in the not too distant future. However, Brussels holds the whiphand and the European agricultural lobby has infinitely more influence than us farmers in the UK. So, unless the British Government takes a unilateral line, they are probably here for some considerable time to come.

I think the influence of greenies and environmental pressure groups may well force the onus of financial assistance away from primary food production and closer to environmental issues. This, in itself, may well open up opportunities for farmers and growers. Bio fuel crops could well be worth closer investigation.

The NFU with other countryside organisations are putting together conferences throughout the country with a view to getting farmers involved in initiatives for the future. Our industry is changing at a terrific pace and we must rise to the challenges of putting British agriculture on a sound and sustainable footing in times to come. The opportunity to have some input in this process should not be missed.

A local farmer won the Lottery the other day. He shared 3.4 million with two others, when asked by an interviewer how it would change his life, he replied that it would make no difference at all. "I'll just keep farming until it's all gone," he said.

Paul Thomas, deputy

vice-chairman Herefordshire NFU.