For many years our farming community enjoyed the care of a pair of devoted family practitioners whose patients cherished their GPs as much as their GPs cherished them.

Yesterday we were invited to share a special birthday afternoon with one of them. Hosted by friends who recognised that the birthday boy himself would not want to publicise the date or the occasion.

The celebrant was particularly cherished among the farming fraternity as he kept Mule ewes, Gloucester Old Spot pigs, Dexter cattle, Toulouse geese and assorted poultry. He was locally and affectionately known not as the doctor, but The Vetnerary.

How things have changed. Since his retirement the practice has been taken over and expanded.

Where once everyone knew exactly who they would be seeing at home or in the surgery, now locums are the norm, home visits becoming rarer and a review of your medical history on a computer needed to ascertain exactly who you are.

And farmers, increasingly affected by depression given the ravages of weather and delays to the passing of the Agricultural Bill, have lost a local champion.

Unhappily this bill, first proposed in 2017, and intended to provide a range of measures not only meaning we would comply with World Trade Agreements on food measures, but also some assurances on future subsidy payments, trade policy and agri-environment payments, hasn’t got much further.

Brexit uncertainty is ruling all. Discussions between the international trade secretary and New Zealand about future deals have upset the National Sheep Association. And the National Pig Association is fighting the possibility of a very low tariff.

Agricultural Policy subsidy payments until 2027 - certainly that would have given some assurance to an industry that needs to plan ahead and cannot suddenly switch direction. Consider the time from gestation and rearing of a cow or sheep to market.

From sowing a crop of cereal to harvest time. The massive investments in machinery, buildings and land for any aspect of farming. The complexity of farming welfare legislation to ensure that livestock is cared for.

Farming needs assurance that it can compete on a fair and equal national and international basis. Fingers crossed it will get it.