THE blandishments dangled in front of our eyes by those advocating we leave the EU included regaining our sovereignty, self-determination, more control of immigration and the ability to develop new trading relationships worldwide’.

'Regaining sovereignty' and 'self-determination' defy accurate definition. 'Control', that is reduction, in immigration is a benefit which varies through the country and is decidedly detrimental to Scottish farming interests. The real big hitter for agriculture is the change from trading tariff free with the EU to exposure to the world market with variable tariffs on both imports and exports.

Time is short and we, and our political masters, need to learn fast. Who better to teach us about trading than someone with more Caledonian blood than half of the Scottish rugby team? He has even written a book called 'The art of the deal'.

Not without justification, Donald Trump complained to the Chinese government about the imbalance of trade between the two countries. Meeting little response, he introduced tariffs on Chinese goods. The Chinese retaliated by imposing a tariff on soya beans, the biggest agricultural export from America where one in three rows grown went to China to feed pigs.

Now, sales have slumped from being worth £10.8bn – half of total agricultural exports to China – to a negligible level. That means 3.7bn bushels of soya beans, or 82% of the total crop last year, is now in storage.

To avoid widespread hardship, the US government grant-aided soya farmers $12bn, which is pretty unsustainable long term. An added worry for Trump is that, of the top 10 soya producing states in the country, eight voted for him in 2016.

The tariff war promises to end soon, but not the problem. Chinese pigs have been hit by African swine fever which is almost always fatal. Over the past years, China's pig herd has reduced by 20% and the disease has not been eradicated.

At the same time, the Chinese have increased their own soya acreage by 16.4%. Even if normal trading is resumed shortly, demand is greatly reduced and the redication is that American export levels won’t recover until 2024, if at all.

A saving grace is that world pig prices have risen by 67% because of increased Chinese demand and are predicted to rise further. There is, though for the US, another sting in the tail.

The Chinese have indicated that they may buy more American pork, but not from pigs which have been treated with the growth promoting drug ractopamine. It is banned in 160 countries, including China, but is used on roughly half of the hogs in America.

Farmers there are learning fast that 'America First' – as promised by The Donald – isn’t straightforward. I wonder if our starry-eyed traders, Liam Fox, Owen Peterson, et al, have noticed that it takes two to tango. They imply that negotiation of new trade deals will be easy. It’s all about tit-for-tat. Industry gets the tit and farmers get the tat.

Ractopamine in pigs to hormone implants in cattle ... it all seems rather familiar. It’s just that the Chinese have more clout than we have.

How much danger these products actually are is questionable. After all, they haven’t led to mass extinction in America.

However, what they do is give American farmers an economic advantage. So does their more relaxed attitude to animal identification and traceability.

For decades our governments have been happy to accept animal products from other countries which undercut ours. If lower cost is due to a natural advantage, then maybe that is how it should be.

What is not right is that they lower costs by producing to a standard which is below our own. This doesn’t mean that we should lower our criteria – traceability levels in our cattle at present are absolutely justified, though in sheep they seem excessive.

The challenge for livestock farmers is to look hard at their operations to see where improvements can be made and costs reduced. At present, the sheep industry Down Under is far ahead of our own.

While our ram breeders have concentrated on facial colouration, set of the ears and evanescent finer points, the antipodeans have culled passengers, reduced labour requirements and developed programmes to improve eating quality.

I have hinted at it for some time, however Jim Walker – in his more robust style – got it exactly right a fortnight ago. The horns on today’s Blackie’s are catastrophic.

The Blackface Sheep Society should give breeders two years to sort their sheep out and, after that, ban any ram which has had its horns heated, twisted or rasped from being sold at auction.

Another of our popular breeds, the Texel – probably due to injudicious embryo transfer – is going helter skelter into making the scalpel a basic requirement at lambing.

Scotland has a colder climate than New Zealand, so maintaining hardiness demands genetic concessions, nevertheless some problems can and must be sorted out by ourselves.

Our beef cattle breeds generally compare well with those in other countries I have visited. Producing bulls to cross with extreme dairy cows is a big market here and demands a muscular type, although one can get too much of a good thing.

Some countries, where supervision is impossible, lead us in calving ease. Because our calves have to be tagged soon after birth, most farmers are around at calving and can surrender a little calving ease to get a stronger calf.

Large countries, like the US, will always lead us in genetic progress due to their enormous cattle populations, so we must ride on their back. In short, British cattle are bred to suit the EUROP grading system, while other countries have their own criteria.

This all leads to variation in body type; good in some traits, less so in others; and this won’t alter until there is a change in market specification.

In this time of political turbulence, we may ‘hae oor doots’ about those at the top table. For all that, a large part of our destiny remains in our own hands ... if we want to make things better, we must make better things.