There is a piece by John Donne, the 17th century poet, called ‘On emergent occasions’ – of which there seem to be several in 2020, not least Brexit.

No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;

If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less,

As well as if a promontory were, as well as any manor of thy friends or of thine

own were;

Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind.

And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

What is done is done, but ultimately the UK will still have to find a way to do business with our largest trading partner, Europe. Let there be an amicable settlement, not a messy divorce.

Another emergent occasion in 2020 has been Covid-19. It has had a terrible health impact on many, but for all of us there has been a devastation of social life.

At Ringlink, we have just built a spanking brand-new office extension that sits empty and some may be doubting the wisdom of that with the benefit of hindsight. I believe, however, that spontaneous social interaction is a fundamental human need and vital for effective business.

If a business is scattered to the winds for any length of time, it loses its cultural identity and cohesion. Communication via the Internet is a poor facsimile of communication in the flesh. More than 50% of the way we communicate with each other is non-verbal.

This might explain feelings of detachment, isolation and even numbness that I, and I am sure many others, have felt throughout this dreadful year, despite communicating with many people every day. Virtual reality is no substitute for actual reality.

Thankfully, the end seems to be in sight and as soon as it is safe to do so, I am sure that all of our offices, marts and meeting places will be buzzing hives of activity.

People, not buildings or machinery, are at the core of farming and of the horticultural sector particularly. NFUS (special mention to the exceptional work of Clare Slipper) has spent much of the past four years lobbying governments for an increase to the seasonal worker scheme when free movement ends on the December 31.

I hope we are on the edge of a much-increased seasonal worker scheme being announced. With unemployment projected to be high next year, we must make an effort to employ at least a percentage of our workforce locally and schemes like Kickstart can help with that, but anyone who thinks this is going to fill anything more than a small percentage of our needs is deluded.

Manual work on farms requires high levels of physical fitness and manual dexterity – these jobs are manually skilled and not everyone is suited to them, particularly someone accustomed to office life.

I hope that with a combination of local, pre-settled and seasonal workers, there will be enough willing hands to work in our fruit, veg, and daffodil fields next year.

Covid and Brexit might be hogging the news at the moment, but these will pass and going forward, climate change is clearly going to be the main, indeed almost the only driver of agricultural policy and support, particularly if you look at George Eustice’s unveiling of the English version this week.

Fergus Ewing’s variation might be more geared towards production, but there surely can’t be all that much difference if there is to be a common internal market, which there surely must.

Jim Walker’s Suckler Beef Climate Group produced its comprehensive report for that sector and now it is the turn of the cropping sector. A new group focussed this time on crops was recently announced by Scottish government.

Andrew Moir, ex-chair at Ringlink, will head up the Crop Sector Climate Group, which will include fruit, veg and potatoes, as well as cereals. Andrew is full of common sense, so I have no doubt that his report next year will be full of practical solutions.

We have completed two carbon audits on our farm and the results on the arable part are clear. Firstly, yield should not be compromised – the higher the yield the lower the carbon footprint, because less energy is expended per tonne of crop.

However, the biggest emissions of greenhouse gases are from nitrogen fertilisers, then fuel and then electricity, in that order.

The good news is that we can make large strides to reduce emissions with technology and cropping rotation choices that are already available.

Using inputs more efficiently not only reduces our carbon footprint, but also make our businesses more profitable by reducing costs.

On fruit, veg and root crops, the big easy wins are more efficient use of fertiliser. For instance, on tabletop strawberries, many growers have already installed gutter systems to enable them to recycle treat and re-use irrigation water which contains fertiliser.

Also, more efficient irrigation, using variable speed pumps and automated systems, can reduce electricity bills and better insulation and speed doors can reduce refrigeration costs, as well as lower carbon footprints.

The son of a local Angus farmer, Rory Dowell, is working with solid state materials to develop an ingenious refrigeration system for potatoes that will store energy generated by solar panels during the day to cool stores at night.

All of these measures still need electricity and many of our members have land suitable for wind and solar power. The cost of installation of such has dropped significantly and it is definitely worth doing, provided you use the power generated. There is a big problem with renewable energy, however – much of it is wasted because of fluctuations in supply, with owners of turbines being paid to turn them off.

Grid balancing not only costs £500m per year, but there is a double whammy with more than 1m mW of wind power wasted every year. That is enough to generate 18,000 tonnes of hydrogen by electrolysis and as renewable energy increases, so will the need for balancing.

There is clearly huge potential to develop a hydrogen infrastructure that utilises that surplus power to produce ‘green’ ammonium nitrate and power the tractors of the future.

Another area worth looking at is feedstock for AD plants, most of which is currently rye, but a proportion is grass silage. If there was policy encouragement to switch more to grass, the huge benefits of having grass in the rotation could raise the carbon content of our soil, reduce fertiliser use and increase yields of arable crops without having to increase numbers of methane-emitting livestock.

The AD plant might be less productive, but the whole farm will be more sustainable in the long term.

So, many of the practical tools for the crop sector to not only become green but also become more profitable are already available and we should be looking closely at them. Other more complex infrastructure will rely heavily on Scottish government policy that encourages and supports farming businesses to move in the right direction.