The start of October kicked off with the appointment of a ‘minister of food supplies’ by the UK government for the first time since World War Two. In wartime, the post was created in response to the challenges of protecting food security in a besieged country, which required rationing – but now the post was being revived due to concerns over Brexit’s effect on the UK and European food chain. 
David Rutley MP would take on the old title, serving as part of Westminster’s Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, to oversee the protection of food suppliers through the Brexit process. 
During First Minister’s questions at the Scottish Parliament, Nicola Sturgeon noted the Conservative party’s ‘quiet appointment’ to the new role: “I think this is news that would have made most people across the UK really stop in their tracks,” he said. 
Another island abattoir was in jeopardy as the future of Stornoway’s only slaughter centre was in doubt following a meeting of the local council where a proposal was put forward to sell the current site to a developer. 
The Scottish Crofting Federation voiced its concern that the council had failed to put in place plans for a relocated service: “The Stornoway abattoir is central to crofting in Lewis and Harris” said SCF board member, Donald Mackinnon. “It is of great concern that the council would consider selling the site without concrete plans in place for how the service with be provided in the future.
“Before any discussions begin about the sale of the current site, assurances must be given to the crofting community about where a new facility will be located and how its construction will be funded. Importantly, planning permission should be secured,” he urged. “A decision to sell the current site without these in place risks the future provision of abattoir facilities in Lewis and Harris and as a result the future of crofting itself in the area.”
Scotland’s rural charity, RSABI, was celebrating following confirmation that its annual Great Glen Challenge event, held at the end of August, had raised £65,637, breaking the previous fundraising record set in 2015.
The popular event has now raised more that £300,000, with support from around 555 rural competitors, representing 125 company teams, since being established in 2012. 
This year’s Great Glen Challenge event, sponsored once again by Ledingham Chalmers solicitors, and supported by Bank of Scotland, Rettie and Co, The Scottish Farmer and Royal Bank of Scotland, had seen 104 competitors cycle, kayak, walk and run 46km from Fort Augustus to Fort William. The Challenge was a sell-out, with 26 teams of four people from a wide spectrum of agricultural and other businesses and organisations taking part. 
There were rumours of unrest at the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland as it came to light that the show manager, David Jackson, was ‘going to be out of the society for some time’. 
This came in the same year that saw the show’s two trade stand managers leave their positions in the week directly running up to the 2018 event. 
Commenting on the developments, a Highland Show spokesman said: “I can confirm that David Jackson is not currently at the society. We cannot comment any further as we must respect employee confidentiality. 
“Two other members of the RHS team have not been at work for an extended period of time – again we cannot offer any further details at this stage.”
A County Antrim farmer issued a warning for others to be extra vigilant after his Danske Bank account was emptied by online criminals. James Alexander runs a large beef and sheep farm near Toomebridge, and unknown to the Alexanders, criminals raided one of their business accounts and didn’t stop until the full €150,000 had been swiped. 
Danske Bank have since returned all of the money to the account, but has also issued its own warning to customers regarding the dangers of malware and the necessity for robust internet protection software. 
Brexit and its effect on the country’s ability to manage threats from animal and plant diseases hit the headlines after warnings from a Lords Committee. 
In a report published at the end of October, the House of Lords Environment Committee said that the UK government had a ‘huge amount of work to do’ to replace the disease surveillance work currently done by the EU. 
The committee highlighted that plant and animal diseases, and invasive non-native species, were a constant threat to the UK’s ecology and economy, with 300 different pests and diseases intercepted at the UK border last year. 
Currently, most decisions on how to react to biosecurity threats are made at an EU level, with the UK benefitting from EU-wide intelligence gathering and disease notification systems, systems for tracing plant and animal movements, and coordinated research efforts. When the UK leaves the EU, it will no longer automatically be part of this framework. 
In the same week, an isolated case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy – BSE – was confirmed on a farm in Aberdeenshire, prompting a brief outbreak of sensationalist headlines in the mainstream media. 
The infected animal – a pedigree Aberdeen Angus cow from a closed herd in the Huntly area – was the first confirmed case of BSE in Scotland for 10 years and was identified as a result of the strict testing regime on casualty cattle over four years old that is still in place to monitor for the disease, which although now vanishingly rare, continues to appear spontaneously in individual animals at a very low rate. The last UK case was confirmed in Wales in 2015. 
With breeding sales in full swing, the Blackface breed record was equalled at Lanark. A ram lamb from the Dunlops of Elmscleuch hit the amazing high of £160,000, equalling Ian Hunter’s breed record, set for a ram lamb at Dalmally in 2015. 

Sea eagles swooped back into the news as we got into winter, with a rash of reports appearing on social media of them allegedly targeting and killing larger mammals. 
Britain’s largest bird of prey – since their reintroduction usurped the golden eagle from that position – sea eagle numbers are predicted to double in the next decade, causing hill farmers a serious headache as their stock become a regular food source. 
Awkward questions were now being asked of the Scottish Government and Scottish National Heritage, with some in the industry adding they are failing to deliver an acceptable management plan for the reintroduction species. 
National Sheep Association Scottish chairman, John Fyall said: “I see a lot of people on Facebook telling their stories, but many are reluctant to make their reports official because they are in talks with SNH – which is working with local farmers, but its compensation packages are aimed at helping with mitigation measures, not for losses.”
SNH and RSPB Scotland were also being queried as to why they had failed to monitor the impact of the sea eagle population on native avian and mammal species in the release areas, amidst reports that the supposedly pescatarian predators were eating anything they could catch. 
NFU Scotland formally opened nominations for the positions of presidents and their two vice-presidents. Current president, Andrew McCornick confirmed that he will stand for re-election, as did one of his vice-presidents, Martin Kennedy – but the other VP, Gary Mitchell, said he would not stand, meaning that there will be at least one major change in the top team. 
The election for these key appointments in Scottish farming will take place at the union’s council meeting at the Radisson Blu Hotel, Glasgow, on Friday, February 8, 2019. 
The following week, Aberdeenshire farmer Charlie Adam confirmed that he will be standing for election as vice-president. Mr Adam, of Braeside farm, Leochel Cushnie, Alford, is currently chair of the union’s livestock committee. 
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon formally opened the Roslin Innovation Centre at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies during a meeting of the Scottish Government’s Cabinet at Edinburgh University’s Easter Bush campus. The RIC now serves as the business gateway to the university’s world-leading research in animal sciences. 
Ms Sturgeon said: “The Roslin Institute is at the centre of innovation that is enhancing animal and human welfare through world class research into animal biology. It is a great privilege to open the Roslin Innovation Centre, which was supported with £10m investment, and meet businesses driving forward life science innovation.”
After years of sheep industry campaigning, Defra finally agreed to change how it determines the age of sheep at point of slaughter, and whether or not their carcases must be split to remove ‘specified risk materials’ under the TSE regulations. 
The National Sheep Association warmly welcomed what it described as the ‘long-awaited’ news that the existing method of checking for tooth eruption can be scrapped in favour of an agreed calendar date – and that date will now be June 30. 
Efforts to bring about a ‘Kingdom of Galloway National Park’ were given fresh focus by a ‘milestone’ conference that attracted almost 300 people to hear how the designation could help create a sustainable future for the region. 
Opening the event near Gatehouse of Fleet, the chairman and president of the Galloway National Park Association, Dame Barbara Kelly, described the proposal as a response to the ‘critical moment; facing the region, highlighting the uncertainly created by Brexit, as well as welcoming new opportunities in relation to initiatives like the South of Scotland Economic Partnership. 
Dame Barbara noted that some 70 community engagement meetings, stretching from the Mull of Galloway to Muirkirk and Stranraer to Dumfries, had found that nine out of ten people were showing a degree of interest and had declared themselves in favour of the area receiving the coveted National Park status. 
Speaking at AgriScot, NFU Scotland vice-president Martin Kennedy warned that the industry’s longstanding plea for support regime simplification and ‘punishments that fit the crime’ had gone unanswered for too long. This failure had played a part in the epidemic of poor mental health in rural areas, he said. 
“I really feel that the health and wellbeing of the people who are producing the one thing that we cannot do without should be treated more seriously,” Mr Kennedy told Rural Economy Cabinet Secretary, Fergus Ewing, during the union’s debate session. “Do not underestimate the impact that farming families suffer over this issue.”
The Perthshire hill farmer recalled when the local department office was a source of help and advice, but insisted now that farmers were out of the habit of involving officials in any problems for fear of triggering an inspection. Department inspections, he said, had become a major source of stress for farmers, already working alone and up against difficult circumstances. 

As the festive season started to kick off, NFUS encouraged the public to support their farmers and crofters – many of whom will be working away as normal on Christmas day – by buying their Christmas food shopping from local producers. 
The union pointed out that, not only does visiting a local farmer’s market, a local farm shop or going directly to the farmer, cut down on food miles, but consumers can also rest assured that farmers get the full return they deserve for the food they produce. 
They were also guaranteed that the food they’d be tucking into on Christmas Day was of the finest quality, with full traceability back to the farm. 
NFUS president, Andrew McCornick commented: “Our thousands of farmers and crofters work day in and day out to provide the fine Scottish produce many will enjoy over the festive period, 
“At a time of year when farmers and crofters are working hard to ensure you have food on your plate on Christmas day, what better way to support them to buy fresh, Scottish produce.”
The news that many had been waiting for was announced in December, as Michael Gove bombed out the application to release lynx into the Kielder Forest. 
In a letter to Lynx UK Trust, Mr Gove stated that after taking expert advice, he had decided not to grant a licence. Mr Gove wrote: “Natural England concluded that the application does not meet the necessary standards set out in the IUCN guidelines and fails to give confidence that the project could be completed in practical terms or that the outputs would meet the stated aims. As a result Natural England found that the proposal lacked the necessary depth and rigour to provide confidence it would succeed.”
Building contractors Robertson were announced as the firm that was going to deliver the Royal Highland Agricultural Society of Scotland’s new permanent event structure at the heart of Ingliston’s Royal Highland Showground, costing £5million. 
Planning for the ‘contemporary event space’ was granted earlier in the year, and Robertson – a firm that has undertaken major projects for universities and the NHS, and recently finished Macallan’s huge new £140m distillery – was confirmed as the appointed contractor at an RHASS board meeting. 
Construction will begin in February 2019 and is scheduled to be completed in time for the 180th Royal Highland Show in June 2020.
Changes were made to the control measures and compensation arrangements for bovine TB in Scotland came into force at the end of the year. ScotGov said that the changes were intended to ensure that TB controls in Scotland both ‘incentivise compliance’ with the rules and encourage cattle keepers to follow best practice when purchasing and moving cattle throughout Scotland and beyond. 
It was announced that the year will bring the issue of milk contracts to prominence for all involved in the dairy sector, Scottish farming leaders have predicted.
NFUS highlighted the upcoming consultation on the introduction of mandatory milk contracts as a ‘unique and tremendously significant’ opportunity that is unlikely to be offered again in the lifetime of this generation of dairy farmers.
Commenting on the, union vice president Gary Mitchell said: “This may be more significant than Brexit, as 90% of a dairy farmer’s income is directly driven by the terms of their contract rather than support.”
The year ended with the announcement that Jim Walker is to represent Scottish interests in the upcoming convergence review.
The long awaited review will look at the future 
intra-UK CAP funding allocations, arising from the long-running row over ‘convergence’ cash awarded to the UK by the EU to bring Scotland’s per hectare payments up nearer the CAP average, which was instead added to the overall UK funding pot.
Certainly an early sign that there will be no shortage of news in 2019...