I certainly didn’t think the war in the Ukraine would still be raging, never mind entering a new phase with fighting mainly confined to the east of the country.

However, this has increased optimism that the winter wheat and oilseed rape that are in the ground there can be managed and harvested, plus some maize can be planted this spring.

Despite this improved crop outlook, like us, they still have major problems with fuel, fertiliser, and labour supplies plus the threat of land mines and unexploded shells. Whatever is harvested will then have to be exported and unless things change quickly, without access to Black Sea ports and the usual 60,000-tonne ships, this will be very slow and difficult by train.

Although the Ukrainian Agriculture Ministry now thinks that up to 70, or 80% of the normal crops may be grown, it is still uncertain as to how much will be able to be exported.

There’s growing public concern that milk prices will rise by 50% in the shops following calls from the industry to raise farm gate prices. About time too. How anyone can justify charging more for water than milk is beyond me!

It doesn’t matter what the cost of milk is, the housewife will buy it. I bet the majority of them don’t even look at the price. On average a 50%t rise in the retail price would make a four pinter around £1.70. Tell me what else is more nutritious and only £1.70!

Secretary of State for Environment, George Eustice, played down these fears. He acknowledged there are going to be pressures on food prices, caused mainly by higher energy costs, fuel and fertiliser costs.

However, he added that when he was first a minister, the dairy industry was in a very difficult position, with farmers getting no more than 15 or 16p per litre. He had the audacity to say prices have recovered since then, with many farmers getting close to 40ppl.

Really, Mr Eustice, I have just two words for you and the second one is off: 40p is the new 30p and even at that it’s barely break even. Yes, the price is rising and it’s better than it was but sadly it’s still not enough.

I’d love to see his face when Boris tells him he will be earning the same for the next 10 years, despite what the cost of living is. Time to live in the real world Mr Ag Minister.

I read Jim Walker's article from last week with interest. Those of us who produce any kind of food know there are standards and lots of onerous paperwork to comply with. As Jim stated, quality assurance rose at the time of BSE/CJD back in the 1990s.

Yes, that was a different time and yes priorities then were different. There are no ways around food standards and neither there should be, but I agree that the schemes pushed by QMS and Red Tractor are now past their sell by date!

We are audited by no fewer than four different bodies. Not all the questions are the same, but the end game is the same for all. Sometimes, it seems that it’s all about keeping someone in a job. Surely a 'one size fits all' can be produced and one visit would suffice. It would save a lot of time and, more to the point, money.

While they’re streamlining why not find some people who actually know what they’re talking about. How often have you been visited by a university graduate who talks the talk but has actually never been 'hands on'? So, please don’t get someone to tell me how to do something better, when they’ve never actually done it themselves!

I cannot help but criticise the Royal Highland Show for its ticket-only plans for this year. RHASS claimed its priority is and always has been the safety and wellbeing of visitors, competitors, and staff, and this move will allow them to achieve this.

Capping numbers to 50,000 per day will not make the show any safer than capping it at 75,000. It’s quite simply a lottery.

The society claims to have been consulting members and visitors about the changes. They might know who all their members are, but there’s no chance they know who all their visitors are. It doesn’t matter whether you have online access or not, how will everyone know it's to be ticket only?

The vast majority of the agricultural contingent will probably be aware now with all the publicity in The SF, but let’s face it we would likely be going anyway. It’s Joe Public who needs to know.

If you turn up without a ticket and there is still capacity on the day, you will be able to buy tickets online there and then and still gain entry. But, that still leaves the possibility of people travelling – many from a distance – and being turned away.

Is it a cost-saving exercise? They say no – it has been driven by the need to manage numbers at what is an increasingly busy event and that it’s in line with other major events. Bollocks. Events such as pop concerts are and always have been ticket only. If you don’t have one, you don’t go!

I sincerely hope I’m wrong, but if people turn up and are turned away, I will say there’s a fair chance they won't be back. Not so long-ago begging letters asking for money to 'support our future' were sent out to members.

A: I wonder what the response would be if they received the same letter today?


B: Has the show finances turned around completely so that it can afford to be picky as to who comes through its gates?

It was great to read The SF last week and see the run of outdoor shows making a start with Kilmaurs. Exhibitors and spectators have had to endure two years – not so much missing showing – but the lack of meeting people for the banter.

No-one needs reminding we live in a lonely profession – some more than others. Probably now more than ever, we need to get out and discuss the stresses of our businesses and I doubt anyone has escaped the problem of rocketing prices.

That leads me onto a more serious issue, as pressures continue to pile down on the industry, leading to increasing concerns about farmer and crofter wellbeing and mental health. A new wellbeing programme – an agricultural partnership – has come together to try to help.

Research will be carried out and is intended to follow on from 2018's successful 'drought, adversity and breaking new ground' tour, which saw more than 2000 farmers attend events to hear New Zealand farmer, Doug Avery, talk about his own challenges with mental health and wellbeing.

Beef, sheep and arable farmer, John Scott, from Ross-shire, is the chairman of a steering group set up to review the learnings of this tour. I don’t think any of us can deny what he said: “Agriculture is facing unimaginable change that will impact generations and could require complete restructuring of farming practices."

Many of these changes are out of our control and there is no doubt they will impact on how we farm and at times will test us to the limit. Some will take it in their stride; many will end up down a dark path and these are the people we must all look out for.

On a lighter note, I had the pleasure of visiting the Love family, of 'This Farming Life' fame last weekend. Is there no end to the enthusiasm and passion for the dairy industry shown by Kayleigh Love and her family? Not only do they milk cows, they also pasteurise and sell milk and run a restaurant to boot.

If you visit Stranraer, you can’t miss the farm … it sits right on the edge of the town as you drive in on the A75. Not only can you buy fresh milk daily from 8 until 8 but there is other local produce and home baking. It’s diversity at its best and well worth a visit.