'There seems to be an impasse between ScotGov and the farming industry on the way forward and I think part of the problem is the influence of the Greens and the desire to align so closely with the EU on future farming policy'

Everyone’s taste is different. My sister-in-law Debbie once bought a terracotta meerkat which, to her eye, looked very quaint peeking out of the shrubbery.

My brother Lochy, never a fan of species introduction – particularly as he is beset by protected beavers destroying trees and undercutting his riverbanks – promptly shot it with his .22, much to the delight of the children. It was quite spectacular apparently.

July 2 saw the demise of another species. The final publication of AHDB’s Potato Weekly, which gave independent price reporting to the industry. It must be a worrying time for many of the good people working for AHDB, as it is for many potato growers.

If the publication was looking to go out with a bang, the final Potato Weekly prices were certainly explosive. I have never seen such a huge difference between Maris Piper, priced at up to £360, and whites, with a top price in Scotland quoted as £70, if you could get a sale, which many couldn’t.

It is not as if the 2020 UK potato crop has been especially big at just over 5m tonnes. Covid-19 and the retailers bear most of the responsibility for this surplus – they have relentlessly pushed Piper during lockdown, as that is what they perceive the home shopper wants, and sales of whites, and particularly Cultra, the enduring favourite of Scottish growers, have languished as a result.

They have consistently refused to put whites on promotion to boost sales and quite a few growers will be quietly licking their wounds right now, myself included. We should think long and hard before planting another potato unless we have a confirmed home for it in the future. If any good can come of this debacle, that would be it.

It doesn’t help when you are down (but not out) to receive an e-mail from your packer warning that haulage prices will have to go up next season because of a shortage of lorry drivers. They claim that whilst they have not passed on any haulage increases up to now 'there comes a point where cost increases can no longer be absorbed…'

Tell me something I don’t know. Growers are an endangered species, might I suggest looking further up the food chain?

There is an additional burden on the horizon and it is one that I think is unavoidable for all farmers. Tesco are on the verge of announcing Linking Environment and Food (LEAF) membership as a prerequisite to supply them.

Marks and Spencer and Waitrose already require this next level of environmental care and I believe all supermarkets will demand it for all produce in the very near future.

It was discussed at a very late stage of the Arable Climate Change Group meetings and put in our recommendations almost as an afterthought, but that doesn’t make it less valid. LEAF occupies a practical and pragmatic half-way house between organic and conventional farming.

It has a proven track record over 30 years. Having just completed and passed our first LEAF audit at the behest of Marks and Spencer, I can assure readers if we can do it, it is well within your grasp.

It was a great pleasure to welcome the new Environment and Biodiversity Minister, Màiri McAllan, on the farm this month to discuss the environmental and carbon steps we are taking.

Ms McAllan might be a lawyer, but she comes from farming stock, and I think she understands the need for grazing livestock in Scotland’s farming future. There seems to be an impasse between Scotgov and the farming industry on the way forward at this point, however, and I think part of the problem is the influence of the Greens and the desire to align so closely with the EU on future farming policy.

The EU Green Deal aims to have 25% of farmland organic by 2030. The last time a survey was done by Scotgov in 2017, only 2.1% (123,00 ha) of Scottish farmland was organic despite the financial support to convert. A whopping 91% of that (112,000 ha) was pasture.

Unless you are growing grass, the statistics suggest that fully organic farming will only ever be a niche in Scotland.

In fact, whilst peer reviewed studies have shown that organic farms have 30% more biodiversity than fully conventional ones, I sincerely doubt that is the case for farms following LEAF-style principles and the carbon footprint of organic farms is inevitably much higher due to much lower yields. It is certainly not a realistic proposition for soft fruit.

Climate and environment targets are in direct conflict with each other, but perhaps adopting LEAF principles is a middle road which all can follow. If we venture down the organic route en masse, we will not only ruin a good niche market for those dedicated practitioners, but we will also export our production abroad – most people can’t afford organic food, and neither can the planet.

A sensible starting point for ScotGov must be the exceptionally good NFUS report from Messrs Moxey, Thomson and Hall, which aims to strike a balance between food production, the environment and climate as well as ensure farmers in Scotland will still exist as a species at the end of the process.

I agree with almost everything in it. The big question is how much is left in the country’s coffers to support their very sensible proposals. Either way, a start urgently needs to be made, because much like Debbie’s meerkat, we are living on borrowed time.