AT THIS time of year it is custom to sit back, preferably with a glass in your hand, and reflect on the year just past and finalise plans for the new one ahead.

Looking back, 2004 compared with 2003 is like comparing the Scottish football team with Brazil. Last year I said my wish for 2004 was the same weather and prices as we had experienced in 2003, how ironic that both were at the other end of the scale.

Next year is a watershed in British agriculture and in my business the SFP is being devolved from each individual enterprise and used to try and cover rent and labour across the board.

After that each enterprise will be assessed on its own merits and judged accordingly. Input prices are about as low as possible so their profitability will depend purely on market price, and at current cereal and beef prices it is difficult to see how either can be profitable.

Having ditched malting barley following this year”s harrowing experiences I am still left with 60ha (150 acres) spring cropping to decide upon. As a tenant farmer leaving it fallow or in set-aside is not an option so I have some serious thinking to do over the festive season.

Not wishing to sound like Scrooge I will finish my Winter”s Tale by commenting on what a credit the Royal Smithfield Show was to British agriculture.

The quality on display in both livestock and machinery was superb and what a shame that our Minister had a “previous engagement” and couldn’t see for herself what a great industry she actually represents.

As both the livestock and machinery exhibitors will tell you quality comes at a cost and unless people are prepared to pay this price then another great national treasure could well be lost.