The lengthening of the day is helping us all to spring into life, and not a moment too soon as the list of tasks on the farm continues to grow.

Farmers in the south of England are weeks behind their planting schedule for cereals and potatoes, as many fields remain too wet to work. Even France has less than half of their usual spring barley planted. Closer to home, thousands of acres are turning brown behind a fleet of tractors in the fields.

Modern machinery can cover ground at an incredible rate, and despite the weather, it is still March, so no one is pressing the panic button just yet. Operating new machines is one thing, but affording them is quite another. Very little would be produced on modern farms without the roar of diesel engines and the force of hydraulics. Consequently, when bills come in for repairs or replacements, farmers find themselves in a tight spot. I heard of a new set of tractor tires heading to Argyll this week for a price that could have bought the entire machine a generation ago.

Collaboration is often suggested to the sector, with pleas for sensible machinery pricing. But as we will see this spring, when conditions are right, farmers need to get into the fields promptly. All delays must be minimised. Although unofficial collaboration is thriving, with thousands of pieces of equipment shared among farming families, neighbours, and friends, longstanding relationships are necessary to weather frayed tempers during harvest or silage time.

Not limited to farm work, many tractors are now needed for the season of protests spreading across Europe and the UK. While action north of the border is yet to be seen outside the national park debate, Lancashire farmers were rallying this week, chanting 'no farmers, no food.' Across the border, Welsh farmers continue to defend their interests as an barmy agricultural policy threatens to nearly mothball their £1.4bn livestock sector. The National Sheep Association is so concerned about the direction of this policy that they warn breeding sales could become redundant in the future. If the Welsh Government isn't stopped, experts predict 122,000 livestock units could disappear in the next five years, potentially leading to the loss of 800,000 sheep and wreaking havoc on lamb supply and market prices.

These troubling signs are further indications to retailers that the current high prices for lamb and beef need to be maintained if breeding animals are to remain on the farm. Improved prices are crucial for cereal producers, or production will decline. Even Brazil is on the brink of launching a national program of soft loans for cereal producers who are filing for bankruptcy at an alarming rate. If we want Scotland's fields to come to life at this time of year, farmers need confidence in the price of their produce.