The independent strategic review of the NI agri-food sector by a team led by former NFU president Sir Peter Kendall does not make for light bedtime reading.
That is not because the document runs to nearly 100 pages, and is very wordy in places, but because it lays out in some pretty stark language the environmental challenges facing the NI farming industry.
In particular, the report claims that NI agriculture currently does not have a positive story to tell.
As farmers, we have to accept that we must do better
It points out that greenhouse gas emissions are up 8.7% since 2009, there is the problem of ammonia, bird species are in decline, 86% of peatland is in a degraded state and only 31% of river bodies are classed as “good”.
As farmers, we have to accept that we must do better, and as the Kendall report points out, there is a long-term threat of individual farms having legal limits imposed around the volume of nutrients that can be produced.
But at the same time so-called industry experts need to be aware that the negativity thrown at farmers is tiresome, and there is a real danger that people on the ground are simply getting turned off.
With the right incentives and advice, the evidence shows that change can happen quickly
Too often it feels like farmers get no credit for all the work they have already done, whether it is to catch effluent and run-off, plant hedges, build bomb-proof slurry tanks or more recently the use of low-emission slurry spreading equipment.
With the right incentives and advice, the evidence shows that change can happen quickly.
However, Kendall is correct to point out there is also a need for more “environmental champions” to emerge from the farming community.
At present, those delivering the message too often look at things from a single lens, or are in the fortunate position to not really be that dependent on farming for their living.
The challenge for environmental groups and those calling for improvements, is to find and engage with active, productive farmers and use these people as levers for change.