Farmers have a track record other businesses might envy for adopting new ideas and technology. Before a green mist began to wrap agriculture this was the norm – and it goes back to when British farming technology became the bedrock of farming around the world.

Farmers did the right thing; responding to calls to feed nations in peace and war. They embraced new ideas, but then fashion took over and technology and productivity were forced to take a back seat. Brexit was supposed to change this, but the promises of new freedoms outside the CAP were dashed.

Instead it has opened the UK to cheap food from countries that embrace technologies now unfashionable at Westminster and indeed, sadly, in Edinburgh too.

This was well summed up this week when a daily newspaper claimed in a headline that farmers will be 'ordered' to feed cows methane suppressants by 2025 as part of the UK's net zero goals. These products are in fact the outcome of an agricultural cooperation deal between the EU and United States and that has produced promising results.

It seems unfair for the UK to try to take some ownership of a solution identified by bigger agricultural players. What is depressing is the sense that farmers will be 'ordered' to use these products.

There is no need to 'order' farmers to do what is right - they always have, if a common sense case is made with the respect they deserve for their skills. In this equation the group that needs to be ordered are processors, supermarkets and consumers.

This will not be a cheap technology, because it is new; and farmers cannot be expected to pick up the cost of the government's green ambitions.

Back in the real world the EU has published its short term forecasts for agricultural markets. The UK may be out of the EU, but EU forecasts still reflect what happens to prices in the UK. The report is more optimistic that pessimistic, compared to a year ago, but the familiar challenges remain and prospects for beef reflect well established trends.

The familiar problems are the war in Ukraine, input costs, food price inflation and a big question mark over whether the drought of last year in Europe is a climate trend or a one year event. A dry summer and dry winter in many parts of Europe has left farmers with concerns about water levels for irrigation.

The report welcomes the easing of energy and fertiliser prices, but it warns that fertiliser prices are still twice what they were in 2020. Equally, while food price inflation is showing some signs of easing prices are still 20% higher than a year ago. It stays this has created two trends, which seem to be here to stay, at least in the short term.

The EU report claims farmers are seeking out crops that have lower fertiliser requirements and that in some cases they are cutting back on fertiliser needed, because it is unaffordable. On the consumer side it says there is a now a firm trend to seek out lower priced products, as protection from the ravages of inflation. This has led to a move away from higher value products, the prime example being beef to chicken, which in turn is making the problems of the beef industry even worse.

With the more normal weather conditions the report says EU cereal production could rise by 9% this year. It says a fall in demand for meat will see a reduction in demand for cereals going into livestock feed.

An increase of around 7% is forecast for oilseed production. On dairy the forecast is for increased culling of dairy cows as farmers respond to a static milk price with better productivity. The result will be a decline in the EU dairy herd, but only a marginal drop in milk production.

The growth area will remain cheese for export, but the market remains weak for butter and milk powders. This dairy cow cull will be another problem for the beef industry. Beef production fell by 2.4% in 2022 and will fall be a further 1.3% this year. Consumption in Europe is now below 10kg a head per year.

The industry, the report says, is a victim of fashion against red meat and inflation driving consumers to seek out cheaper meats – a trend now well established that will be difficult, if not impossible, to reverse.