Another year passed, but they keep coming – and I can tell you that the older one gets, the faster they go!

We can only hope that we are all ready to enjoy the year ahead. I reckon many of us are here today due to two things – vaccines and penicillin, which was the wonder drug after World War 2 and still is today. It saved my life when I was nine from pneumonia and many more lives since, as have the vaccines of times gone past and for today, for the dreaded Covid-19 virus.

So, what lies ahead for Scottish agriculture in the year 2022?

One of the challenges and probably the most difficult to face, is 20% inflation for most of our industry. The last time we had anything near that figure was back in the 1970s and early ‘80s.

Were that to happen today, many farms would go bust. There is a generation farming today who have only known interest rates closer to zero than 5%, which was what they were at when I started farming in 1963.

I mentioned a few months ago that the Bank of England is in between a rock and a hard place – it is damned if it does and damned if it doesn’t. My fear is that the cost of borrowing can only go one way and that will not be good news for agriculture.

Labour, or the cost of it, will be the next biggest challenge caused by Westminster’s stupid immigration policies due to Brexit. It can only lead our industry in one direction, that is more mechanisation. I am not in the poly-tunnel business, but I have no doubt my colleague, James Porter, will tell us soon how all the fruit and veg is going to be dealt with mechanically.

Perhaps the poly-tunnels will all disappear and be replaced by combine harvesters? So, what does the year ahead hold for the all-cereal grower?

Having consulted two arable farming friends, I am told that if grain prices stay around £250 per tonne, £650 for fertiliser will not be a problem. Their expectation is that yields will go down and we all know what happens when we produce less – the value of our product goes up, as is happening now that Russia’s Putin is in total control of Europe’s oil and gas values.

By accident I watched Westminster’s rural minister, George Eustice, being questioned by the Agricultural Committee, chaired by Neil Parish. Well, I have never heard so much rubbish talked by a so-called farm minister in my life! It is little wonder he is known in some quarters as Useless!

One thing for sure, if Eustice and the Boris (now controlled by a petticoat?) are still in power (which looks unlikely), England will be turned into a wildlife park. Certainly, listening to Eustice’s response, it appears that the plan is to abolish all farm support by 2027.

This may not be all bad news if we are moving to the New World of consumers paying the true cost of food, but the challenge politicians will have is to convince voters that it is the right way to go!

Now, I know that the so-called politicians who are running the country think that so far as food is concerned, it is available cheap, elsewhere in the world. Well, they better stop dreaming! That is certainly not the case.

All the talk of cheap Aussie beef is nonsense. My Aussie beef finishing friends down under are being paid at least 50p per kg more than here. It is not the price of Aussie beef that worries me, it is the consistency of its quality, with which we will have no chance of competing.

Quite simply, that’s because we have too many breeds and our grading system is out of date and a joke elsewhere in the real world.

So, with a new grain value of £250 per tonne, who will be the losers? Poultry, pigs, dairy and beef in that order.

I do not know enough about poultry or pigs to comment much, except watch China! So far as pigs go, they control the world values.

My scribe colleague, Pat Wilson, who milks cows, maintained she needed a 5ppl increase, but I can tell Pat if her milk was going to Scotland’s lowest payer, she would need at least 7p a litre more! I will leave you to guess the processor!

On beef, I see a Northern Ireland economist saying that the UK break-even price per kg needs to be 434p. If we take investment and paying back borrowing into account, then 450p will be required. If that does not happen, then the Scottish Governments Civil Servants, who are crying for a reduction in cattle numbers, will not even need to rise in the morning to make it happen.

What about the current beef price? Those of us in the game know that there is no longer a Scotch premium, it is now English! For the past two months you can gain as much as 20p per kg more for cattle in England than in Scotland. Hence the reason we have so many English buyers up here at our auction markets with an ever increasing number of Scotch cattle going south to be sold.

So, why have we lost the premium? Is it QMS, or is it the reality that we only have a few processors and they are nearly all Irish-owned, causing lack of competition. Is an Irish cartel now in control?

And, are Scottish auction markets too expensive in which to sell? The reality is that Scottish auction markets are close to being the most expensive in the world to sell either stores or fat cattle. Can someone tell me why? Is there a case for tapered commission or a cap on charges? Auction markets are certainly showing vast increases in profits!

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I have had a new role change this past few months as my better half had a hip replacement in October, so I had to enter a new world, firstly as a carer, (which I have been for nearly 60 years anyway!) but the next was more challenging as I had to go to buy provisions. That was an education.

Historically, I have only gone into supermarkets to do research for this column, for which I just needed paper and pen. This was a whole new game. Shopping list, pen, mask, sanitising hands and trolley, and after completing my list (including several phone calls home!), I had to use ‘plastic’ to pay the bill, having never done it before.

All my life I have used a Clydesdale Bank cheque book and had cash in my hip pocket. Fortunately, most staff at check-outs were very helpful. First of all, I tried the big four supermarkets to see which one I preferred and where I could get everything on the list in one stop. The winner was Morrisons, but being a person who hates standing in a queue, that was where it got a yellow card.

The good news was that the boss is now back after a successful operation and shopping again. Her major complaint was that the prices have all edged up and there are a few items missing now and again.

Where does the future support lie for Scottish agriculture? Our rural affairs minister, Mairi Gougeon, will try to follow the EU programme as closely as possible, which is quite different from England, which means that there will no longer be a UK policy on how agriculture is supported, though one thing for sure, it will be less.

My other prediction is that the so-called leader at No 10 will be replaced by Liz Truss as he is bound to continue with his blunders, when he will eventually fall on his sword!

One statistic from last year – my rainfall is the seventh lowest reading at 34.75-inches and my 30-year average is 38-inches. I last cut my lawn on the December 10 and if the unseasonal temperatures continue it looks as if I will have to cut it again in January.

So, keep enjoying what fun you can, because this is not a rehearsal – and be grateful you live in this lovely wee country!