Another year is almost upon us and sadly, like this time last year, we are still in the middle of Covid-19 restrictions, with more regulations mooted to be on the way.

Version Omicron is more virulent than its predecessors. Despite the rolling out of the vaccine and the booster, the months ahead look as challenging as ever. Will we face another lock down – more to the point, can we stand another one?

As we contemplate the months ahead possibly embroiled again in this pandemic, we have been told to prepare for the perfect storm of rising costs.

I think it’s too late to prepare – it’s been happening for a while! The average cost of production has risen by 2.2p per litre in the current year and is set to rise by 3.3ppl when the full impact of higher feed, astronomical fertiliser prices, machinery and labour costs emerge. Indeed, stats specialists, Promar, predicted a rise of more than 5ppl is needed.

I’m a great believer in always looking forward. Don’t look back – you’re not going that way! However, sometimes it’s interesting to rake over old ground and see if what’s happened has been for better or worse.

In January, markets were back operating on a drop-off and go basis, and we could only hope our livestock would be sold to their optimum. They did, however, trade with minimal disruption after social distancing measures were introduced. On the plus side, trade had remained fairly buoyant.

The show season that wasn’t in 2020 repeated itself in 2021, with the exception of one or two lucky ones. Surely early committee meetings won’t need to discuss the likelihood of it all for a third time. Could we really be that unlucky?

In February, dairy farmers were given hope for a fairer future. We were told the sector would be brought under a statutory code of conduct, reining in the power of milk buyers. This led to a lobbying effort that lasted 12-weeks seeking views on how dairy contracts and relationships could be improved.

As a result of that consultation, the UK Government and devolved administrations announced they would collaborate to develop this new statutory code, with both producers and processors at the table. The then NFU Scotland's milk committee chairman, Gary Mitchell, hailed the results a 'great milestone' for both the dairy sector and the rest of productive Scottish farming.

Gary said he was delighted this didn't end up stuck in a cupboard somewhere. After all, folks, it had taken 10 years to get to that point. Sorry, but from where I’m standing, this 'code of conduct' may not be in a cupboard but it’s bloody stuck somewhere. Correct me if I’m wrong but this whole thing has gone incredibly quiet, or maybe I’ve missed something.

No-one can fail to have noticed this year’s constant barrage about farming tackling climate change. Back in April, the Dairy Climate Group – one of five farmer-led groups – was set up to develop advice and proposals to the Scottish Government on how to reduce carbon emissions. But were these groups only granted lip service? Little, if any heed seems to have been taken of what they said.

Government continued to blame livestock farmers for the problem. The fact is animals are accountable for only 4% of greenhouse gases and that figure is constantly reducing! Methane is a ‘flow’ gas that breaks down and disappears from the atmosphere.

Everyone wants to improve their efficiency, productivity, and profitability. Who wouldn’t?

For the last two years, the global pandemic we have been experiencing, virtually shut a lot of the country down. Planes stopped and there were a helluva a lot fewer cars on the road. The result – a serious reduction in emissions!

But guess what, farming is still readily being used as a scape goat. Why?

In early summer, labour shortages reached crisis point. Many areas were hit, one in particular was the HGV industry and the UK’s milk supply was hindered, and there was the scandal of farmers in North-east England being told to put their milk down the drain because there were no drivers to lift it.

Let’s hope there’s no repeat of this in 2022. But, we need to able to recruit reliable, hardworking, people. The question is, how?

Back in August, the First Minister had a Cabinet reshuffle. Our long-serving Rural Economy Minister, Fergus Ewing, wasn’t in it, having stepped down for a quieter life as a constituency MSP.

His successor was Mairi Gougeon. She leads an enhanced Rural Affairs brief, with responsibility for agriculture, food and drink, fisheries, and aquaculture, among other things. We're still waiting for her 'to make her mark'?

In October, the famous/infamous COP26 event took place in Glasgow. However, both China and Russia were conspicuous by their absence. When it comes to global warming, these two are the top of the 'offenders' list'. Why did neither country deem it important enough to turn up?

Those who did make it, though, arrived in their droves in private planes, sat down to New Zealand lamb, and travelled between cities in cavalcades of vehicles.

Flights produce greenhouse gases, mainly carbon dioxide. Emissions from a plane are known to be significantly worse than any other form of transport. Carbon dioxide from cars goes into the atmosphere and stays there for a 1000 years.

And, politicians expect us to make sacrifices to save the planet but are too important to do the same! This was nothing short of a PR exercise. What a bunch of hypocrites.

In the last few months, among other things, we’ve seen the price of fertiliser soar. Skyrocketing gas prices, coupled with high global demand, food security concerns, and reduced imports led to increased costs.

Anyone lucky enough to be ahead of the game will have paid about £280 a tonne – those who’ve left it until now are seeing prices of £700 a tonne and in some cases more.

Many of us will be looking to reduce fertiliser usage in 2022 to offset the impact of these high prices, but this in itself is going to cause long term problems. If less grass is grown and less fertiliser is used on cereals, but demand is the same, then it doesn’t take a mathematician to work out there will be a shortage of feed and even reduced output.

Merchants are predicting that prices for all feed per tonne will start with a '3' rather than a '2'. It doesn’t make happy reading.

Let’s end on some good news. The UK Government fulfilled its promise to maintain total farm support in every UK nation worth a cumulative £3.7bn a year. The news was welcomed by NFU Scotland, along with extensions to the recommendations of the Bew Review.

That means additional funding will be provided to farmers in Scotland over the next three years. It’s hoped the Scottish Government will commit those funds to a significant package of measures to initiate the necessary changes needed to drive forward a new post-CAP agricultural policy.

Before I sign off, may I wish you and yours a very merry Christmas and a peaceful, prosperous 2022. Grasp life with both hands ... this is not a dress rehearsal!