THE last 12 months have certainly been a learning curve for us all and the one thing we can say we've learnt from Trump, Farage, Brexit and all the demonstrators outside G8 meetings, is that globalisation is not the way forward!

Protectionism will be the key to prosperity from now on! – wrong, wrong, 180° wrong! Globalisation and trade have been the keys to reducing global poverty and inflation, whilst encouraging growth over the last few decades, and will continue to be so.

A case in point is the ignorance of Trump around the Nafta (North American Free Trade Agreement) – 'the worst trade deal ever', according to him. It was a deal which he vowed to scrap but now is receiving just very modest tweaks by 'executive order' as reality and truth bites.

In reality, rather than TrumpWorld, it was actually a pretty good deal for the US, with larger import tariff reductions for US exports than for Mexico. This was key in the $2.6bn of annual US corn exports to Mexico for feed lots and tortillas!

Trade is a fundamental of the global economy and now TrumpTrade is crashing and burning just like TrumpCare for the same reason. Electoral posturing was based on ignorance of reality, which sadly played well with the ill-informed. Sound familiar?

There is no action without reaction, in either physics or economics, and corn is central to Mexican life and culture as its most important agricultural commodity.

With the need for large imports to supplement domestic production, Mexico is now looking at new suppliers for corn imports, as the US hawks come home to roost on the Wall and Nafta.

Corn is only a small fraction of US/Mexico total trade, but Mexico is the biggest global importer of US maize and is symbolic of economic symbiosis. The potential loss of their biggest corn export market of $14bn is not playing well in Mid-west farming communities, where much of the 'Corn Belt' voters were for Trump.

Nafta had allowed a quadrupling of US agricultural export markets since signing and the consequent reduction of tariffs with $18bn of US agricultural export into Mexico alone. The understandable Mexican pack has US farming unions worried about bankruptcies and job losses.

Mexican representatives are already in talks with Argentina and Brazil to replace US corn. Efforts to further increase domestic production by Mexico are also being stimulated by Trump's posturing on trade and the racist rhetoric around the 'Wall'.

There is no doubt that any global CEO who was damaging their global brand in the way Trump is damaging the US global brand would be facing a shareholder rebellion.

Whilst the dynamics of US/Mexico corn markets might seem of merely academic interest to us in the UK and Scotland, this is not the case for two reasons.

Despite the supposed paradigm shift towards protectionism, the reality is still that all global markets are inextricably interlinked and impact each other, often ruled by the 'Law of unintended consequence.

The second reason is that it provides a worrying and timely reminder of the importance of tariffs in trade and what might well be the impact on trades and jobs of both a hard Brexit-ed UK and a newly independent Scotland facing changes in tariff barriers for both agricultural and other exports.

Another intriguing dynamic to the global grain market is the cyclical shift in consumer tastes and buying patterns. Not so long ago, African and South American diets for the poor were characterised by the 'poorer' grains of sorghum, millet and quinoa. They have now shifted more towards rice.

At the same time, traditional rice markets in South-east Asia are moving more towards more Western wheat products – increasing pasta and bread consumption and away from rice.

There is more than a little irony in the fact that well-heeled consumers in California and Edinburgh are now downing wheat and espousing the virtue of grains such as quinoa and sorghum that the poor Africans and Peruvians have been happy to move away from! Plus ca change!

I was delighted to chair an excellent meeting on the use of cover crops at the James Hutton Institute, sponsored by SSCR (Scottish Society of Crop Research), where a great group of farmers, advisers and researchers came together to discuss both the benefits and the practicalities.

There are concerning indications of long-term reductions in organic matter globally in agricultural soils. This leads to increased erosion, loss of workability, structure and traffic days in our wet climate and loss of nutrient and moisture holding capacity.

We are good in Scotland at using rotation to maintain soil organic matter and increasingly good at using conservation tillage and straw incorporation methods, albeit for reasons of economy rather than soil management. Yet again, here is a good example of where good environmental practice goes hand in hand with good business.

We should also now consider the use of cover crops, where practical, to further protect valuable organic matter and the health of our soils, as well as incorporating atmospheric carbon. (Diary date for the SSCR Cereals in Practice demonstration on July 6 at Saphock, Old Meldrum, in Aberdeenshire, where these and other crop issues will be discussed in time for planning for next season).

On greenhouse emissions, I was perturbed to see the latest Scottish government targets of reducing Scottish CO2 emissions increased by 80% by 2050 with an interim target of 50% by 2020. This is more aggressive than any other nation on earth and will put the Scottish economy, our poor and taxpayers at an even greater disadvantage for little benefit.

This at a time when the US, UK and even Poland are reducing their commitments and the Paris Agreement is in its death throes. It smacks of plucking figures out of the air without pausing to consider the implications or massive and expensive adaptations required.

As the independent Committee on Climate Change has stated, Scotland’s current progress has been greatly helped more by a run of mild winters than other factors. More worryingly for agriculture, it has been stated that Scottish farming – wrongly in my view – has not been doing its fair share, despite being a huge carbon absorber.

I anticipate much greater and ill-conceived controls on emissions from agriculture reducing our competitiveness. Hopefully, as Brian Wilson has recently commented, the 'Saudi Arabia of Renewables' will be more successful at home-grown manufacturing of new technologies and jobs than the abject failure in the wind energy revolution where benefits haemorrhaged overseas.

In Ukraine, the spring has now arrived and crops, apart from late drilled wheat, have survived the winter well. Shortages of nitrogen fertiliser are an issue and require creativity and flexibility.

Spring drillings are going well with wheat and barley completed and sugar beet underway, with good moisture and warmth. Our winter barley is receiving it's first spray of Aviator, which has been key in delivering high yields, as it was in the new NZ wheat world record.

Prospects for yields are, so far, good – but like the Mexican and Mid-west farmers, we are part of the global village and prices remain interconnected and unexciting.