I WOULDN'T be surprised if a fair number of Scottish farmers weren't disappointed to see the end of 2017 with its rain-drenched, sodden summer. Western Scotland's summer was the third wettest since records began 107 years ago - with rainfall up almost 50 per cent for June, July and August. As often happens in farming it is the weather that dictates the profitability or otherwise for the year.

I well remember the terribly wet summer of 1985, which was probably worse than last year's, but at least it dried up in October allowing us to tidy up the harvest and salvage some late silage. That wasn't the case last year and there are still some crops, straw and silage left rotting in fields.

Perhaps the worst feature of last summer was the fact that many dairy farmers in the West of Scotland had to bring their cows into the sheds early to prevent them trampling their sodden pasture into mud. Many now find that they are running short of fodder with some predicting they will run out of silage long before spring. To make matters worse, straw and hay are scarce and very expensive.

The situation has prompted the Scottish Government to establish an Agriculture Weather Advisory Panel composed of experts who will advise farmers how to cope with bad weather events both now and in the future.

To deal with the aftermath of last summer the Scottish Government recently increased the panel's scope to include one-to-one specialist advice on the use of feed budgeting to better manage livestock dietary needs, particularly over the winter period and in light of increased straw prices.

Back in 1985 we did our own feed budgeting and got through the winter using our own resourcefulness, and most will do the same this winter. Still, I suppose creating an Agriculture Weather Advisory Panel lets the Scottish Government be seen to be concerned.

How much the Scottish Government and the Westminster Government really care about agriculture will be put to the test as we leave the EU fold. Already Defra (Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs) Secretary Michael Gove has given some ominous warnings about the future for agricultural support post Brexit.

Everybody is clamouring to be heard, but it seems that the powerful environmental and food lobbies are being more successful than most. Mr Gove recently announced that future farm support south of the border would be simplified, focused on environmental measures and far removed from the "burdensome" demands of the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy).

Addressing English landowners at a Country Land and Business Association's conference, Mr Gove condemned the current system of farm support as "inefficient, ineffective, inequitable, and environmentally harmful."

He went on to enlarge on his thinking a couple of weeks ago by saying that capping the amount of direct payments received by larger farmers will be one of the first changes that will be made after the UK leaves the EU. He said that a Defra paper to be published this month will detail the means by which the Government will introduce the cap.

There is every possibility the paper will include the views contained in a recent report from a think tank that said that farmers should have three forms of income available to them - sales from agricultural produce at market prices, payments for ecosystem services and a form of means-tested livelihood support targeted at less well-off farmers.

The report says: "This should necessarily be targeted through the existing tax and benefits system and should seek to end the current situation where subsidies are paid to owners of very large estates without any public good being received in return."

The biggest problem the farming industry faces in getting its message across is that the vast majority of its audience - more than 80 per cent of the UK population - live in towns and cities.

As Nuffield Scholar Anna Jones said in her recent excellent report: "With an uncertain future post-Brexit, farmers arguably need the media more than ever before. They have some convincing to do that agriculture is worthy of public money; that consumers should shun foreign labels and choose British instead; that the environment is safe in farmers' hands."

Ms Jones points out that farming is not a mainstream issue in the UK. It was barely mentioned during the 2017 general election campaign and the media has bigger fish to fry. Terrorism, the NHS, North Korea and Donald Trump all grab headlines in a way agriculture can't, and never will - so long as we're not hungry.