Well I certainly chose an interesting time in the quiet season for agronomy and mountain bike racing to convalesce from a knee replacement!

The TV ‘sport’ – with General Election, impotent Climate Conferences and US Impeachment proceedings – certainly diverted from intense physio and physical discomfort whilst replacing those with mental angst!

The latter, impeachment had a very definite Ukraine bortsch(ed) flavour.

On climate, the longest ever global conference merely resulted in the can being kicked along the road to Glasgow in 2020 after more hot air than Enlightenment.

Only those with a close knowledge of Ukraine know the importance of the US withholding the $400m of military aid to help protect Ukraine in it’s frozen deadly conflict with Russia. This continuing conflict has now left 13,000 dead and displaced 2.5m inhabitants.

It is appalling that the evidence shows that young lives were put at risk by this impeached President with the aim of personal political gain. This deadly fact seems to have been missed in the coverage. Russian separatists have even mined cemeteries in order to kill and maim mourning parties.

Meanwhile, farming carries on in the peaceful West of Ukraine, though we send young conscripts to the Eastern Front from the farm on a regular basis.

Winter crops have established reasonably well before the snow cover, but drought delayed emergence in a large tract of central Ukraine and smaller weaker plants may not survive, even under their protective white blanket.

This, together with Australian drought and high temperatures, may well tighten 2020 grain prices. These droughts are in stark contrast to Scottish conditions.

Ukrainian yields were down, partly due to high summer temperatures this season, despite nearer record global and EU cereal harvests. The fifth near record in the last six years, despite prophets of climate food doom. As noted before, rising CO2 levels are driving these record harvests.

Nevertheless, despite these records, whilst EU stocks have risen, global stocks have fallen on the back of higher usage. As I have said before ‘never in the field of human history have as many mouths been fed so well and so cheaply by so few.’

Plans for the lifting of the agricultural land sale moratorium continue within the Ukraine Government. This will provide great opportunities for investors and farmers to acquire some of the best farmland on the planet, with the lowest global costs of production for wheat and barley, in due course.

Such investment will also aid the Ukraine economy. Watch this space.

On the domestic front, with a stunning election victory for the Conservatives south of the Border, even I have to admit, sadly, that Brexit looks a nailed on certainty. Will Johnson be the last PM of the UK?

Certainly, appetite for a united Ireland and an independent Scotland within the EU has dramatically increased. Johnson’s capitulation and sell out of the DUP, by eliminating a backstop and replacing with a far weaker and problematic Irish Sea border, will cause problems for agricultural exports and food processors.

Whether there is an appetite for unification south of the Irish border is a very moot point based on my round of pre-Christmas Dublin dinner parties of late.

It’s not generally known that the UK nett annual payments to Northern Ireland are 25% higher than annual UK payments to the EU, at £11bn. This without a Stormont Government for three years, but hopefully for not much longer.

Two important government reports were held back pre election by Johnson. The first from the UK Office of Budget Responsibility shows a blackhole of £18bn in Tory budgeting. Will this have an impact on Government agricultural spending?

We await the release of the withheld IntelComm report on Russian donations and interference with great interest. Techniques test-bedded in the laboratory of Ukraine politics pre and post-Maiden revolution.

Certainly, the Conservative vote swing to urban disaffected means a farming vote now means very little and even less north of the Border once separated from our EU colleagues bargaining power.

Note the recent success of Irish farmer demonstrations on beef prices and government aid packages. This will be supplemented by further EU support to Irish farmers to soften the undoubted Brexit blow to Irish farming.

Will the industry have the power to hold Gove to his ‘promises’ on post-Brexit farming payments and Brexit stress relief? The announcement last week, immediately post election, that legislation would be introduced to legally bind the UK to leaving the EU in 2020 with or without a deal is extremely worrying.

This brings the possibility of a no (WTO) deal much closer as shown by the rapid loss of post-election sterling gains. Commitments pre-election on environment and workers rights have already been rolled back. As noted previously, this scenario will be disastrous for farming, suppliers and the food industry with zero farming upside and collateral damage to our landscape.

No-one born this century voted for Brexit and the demographic age and education splits in the election were crystal clear.

The prospects of anything but a skeleton EU trade deal before the end of 2020 are remote and farming is not a top priority. My impeccable US-based sources tell me that despite Trump’s promises, any US/UK trade deal will await the finalisation of a UK/EU trade deal to see where the land lies.

Why would they rush in when the UK will be weaker then and you have already achieved your main aim of weakening both the UK and EU politically and economically? A result which pleases both Trump and Putin.

The likely further erosion of sterling value as roadblocks are progressively hit, will just make dollar purchases of UK assets and services better value. With impeachment proceedings, a ‘sugar rush’ economy, China/US deals and an election in 2020, engagement with our inexperienced and less than battle ready UK negotiating team will be a low priority. Sadly, never have I been happier with my hedging US investments.

UK and Scottish farming have lost what meagre lobbying power it once had in the arena of international trade and government support. The release for free of all NHS personal medical data to Bezo’s non-tax-paying Amazon behemoth by Matt Hancock sets a worrying precedent.

Hold onto and protect your data whether that be your DNA or your precision farming. There is little value for Scottish farming in any US/UK trade deal. The watchword for 2020 and forward appears to be ‘chaos’ within the domestic market, and investment overseas looks less prudent and more a priority.

I am an optimist and I have faith in the Scottish industry’s ability to keep going, evolve and mitigate but it will be very tough for many.

On a positive note, the data firmly shows – despite the prophets of doom – that humanity has an optimistic positive trajectory. With most important metrics, including health, life expectancy, population growth, education, hunger and elimination of poverty, climate related deaths and many more we are advancing.

I commend Hans Roslings ‘Factfulness’ as a late stocking filler or New Year tonic to provide perspective.

The Crop Production in Northern Britain, in Dundee, on February 25 and 26, 2020, will be a good date in the diary to hear about exciting new research and technology like the exciting new fungicide, Revystar and how old friends, like Bravo and CIPC, might be replaced.

I hope readers had a Happy Christmas and look forward to a as prosperous a New Year as will be possible in chaotic times. Challenges there will be, but also opportunities.