When it comes to agriculture the European Union and the old Soviet Empire have something in common - a love for long term planning.

To be fair to Brussels its plans are less about record yields and tractor manufacture than the direction of travel. All long term plans have a degree of immunity, in that by the time they are met authors can blame outcomes on changed circumstances. This was summed up well by the economist John Maynard Keynes, who said of such forecasts that 'in the long run we are all dead'.

The latest document from Brussels forecasts where agriculture might go from now to 2035. The reaction of farmers will be that they would love to know where they might be next year, let alone in more than a decade. However, at least Brussels is trying to look at the direction of travel for an industry battered by conflicting pressures.

Politicians want it to deliver on the environment and climate change, but at the same time, the last year has underlined the importance of food security. Ironically these have now come together, with climate-driven record low water levels closing the Panama Canal and blocking food shipments to Europe.

It is easy to question whether long term plans can ever be meaningful, but the EU is at least looking at the challenges, while the UK government, post-Brexit, has no interest in agriculture and no thoughts as to where the industry is going.

The EU report was produced by DG Agriculture, with significant input from the Joint Research Centre (JRC) scientists responsible for crop yield and other forecasts. Its headline message is encouraging. It describes farming as a 'transitioning and resilient' industry that will 'cope with challenges and embrace opportunities'.

Those thoughts sum up well the ability of agriculture now and in past generations to respond to whatever challenges are put in front of it. This is what farmers do, but it is good to see the EU confirming its belief in the capacity of agriculture to go on delivering for society. The challenges of the next decade, according to the EU, are climate change, market conditions, and the demands of society for farmers to deliver more than a secure supply of quality food.

The report warns that the past answer to problems of increased productivity is not guaranteed to solve the issues climate change is bringing.

This broad brush aspects confirm the EU is aware of the problems and wants to be part of the solution, not least via a continuing commitment to the CAP as a source of funding as well as a vehicle for change. It says the production of wine, sugar, and meat will all fall in response to changing consumer trends. It also warns that energy costs will remain higher than they were in 2020/2021, before the war in Ukraine, and that these will remain an issue for agriculture's cost base.

For the arable sector, it says demand for cereals for livestock feeds will fall as production in that sector falls to meet changing consumer demand. It says that despite climate change and more fallow land for environmental reasons, output will remain similar, thanks to advances in techniques such as precision farming. The report suggests policy and the market will drive 'land shifts' from cereals to protein crops, such as soya and pulses.

For dairy, the suggestion is that the era of production growth in Europe is over, as environmental pressures drive change. It says that as with cereals the EU will remain a major global export player. It suggests that added value will come in dairy from farmers' ability to guarantee sustainability and high quality standards.

It suggests demand will continue to grow for cheese and that butter and milk powders will remain stable. It also suggests that with an ageing and more health conscious population, there will be more demand for functional foods made from dairy ingredients that are often by-products of cheese production.

When it comes to meat the picture is once again gloomy. Price and changing consumer demand will drive a continuing fall in beef production, with cow numbers falling by ten per cent, or more than three million, by the mid-2030s. Pigmeat production will fall steadily by 0.9% a year and while lamb consumption will remain static it will increasingly be met by imports.

Poultry growth will continue because it is perceived to be more healthy and avoids religious and cultural issues.