Spring is just around the the corner. Daffodils are blooming and the first hedgerow buds are bursting open. If we get a few consecutive dry days, the fields will be buzzing with machinery sowing all sorts of crops, applying fertiliser, spraying herbicides and fungicides and generally making sure everything is in order to produce top quality food.

Of course, it might all have been so different if this part of the world had been allowed to use so-called genetically modified plants which could fix their own nitrogen, in the same way peas and beans do.

Serious pests and diseases could also have been controlled without the need for all this spraying if plant breeders had been given the chance to trial and develop crops with some in-built resistance.

It is staggering to note that earlier this month our Parliament gave scientists the all-clear to genetically modify human embryos in this country and there was barely a whimper of protest, yet any farmer who dares to suggest he would welcome a strictly controlled trial of GM wheat on his farm is likely to suffer trampled crops and verbal abuse.

Having said all that, perhaps it helps British farmers to be able to say that our crops are GM-free, which appeals to the large section of society who have some unexplained fear of the technology.

It seems all commodity prices have collapsed across the world. Farmers are big users of diesel and reduced costs for this vital input have been welcome. However, this has been more than offset by a corresponding reduction in outputs, with wheat, barley, sugar beet, potatoes, beans and peas all at, or below, the cost of production.

Even on our own farm, where we have diversified into minor crops like borage, quinoa and camelina, demand has weakened and prices have tumbled. The situation is unsustainable and whilst farmers live off their reserves they will not being paying the exchequer any tax and the machinery dealers will struggle to make sales. It is not just the farmers who benefit when agriculture is profitable.

With the EU referendum just around the corner, it would be wrong for me to use this column as a political platform for my own views on Brexit, but I do wish agriculture had been given more prominence in the debate so far. After all, it is easily the biggest drain on the union’s budget and whether we stay in or come out, there has to be a better way than the present system, which gets reformed every few years and yet never works as well as the old “deficiency payments” policy which was in use before we joined the EEC.

These were used to guarantee food security by subsidising farmers to stay in business through tough periods and then they got paid very little or no subsidy when commodity prices were high. With the present rules, the subsidy can go up or down in parallel with commodity prices purely because our currency is strong or weak. Whether Independent UK or Common Market, that cannot be right.