Farmers’ protests are having an effect. Given the severity of environmental legislation in the Netherlands, it’s no wonder that the Dutch farmers were the first to not just take to the streets but to cause a political earthquake in local elections in the Netherlands last year and now find themselves as part of the government after prolonged negotiations following the Dutch general election earlier this year.

The anomalies facing farmers continue to become more visible and are at last being recognised by governments as well as the European Commission in Brussels.

The latest recognition of changing conditions is the authorisation by the heads of government, at a recent summit meeting, of the imposition of duties on the importation of wheat into the EU from 1 July. At €95/t, the figure is significant.

But the heads of government warned that there was a danger of Russian wheat being passed off as Ukrainian and that this must be guarded against – precisely how has not been spelled out.

But on the broader trade scene, the world is in disarray with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) effectively sidelined as the United States of America refuses to allow it continue to function.

Agriculture has only been part of the world trading system since the Uruguay round was completed in the mid-1990s under the chairmanship of the late Peter Sutherland.

The experiment has not been a success and the world has fundamentally changed since then.

The two largest countries in population terms, China and India, are effectively ignoring the WTO in operating their own farm policies.

Both operate pricing, import and food storage policies to suit their own national needs rather than in accordance with any international agreements.

Meanwhile, Russia has become the world’s largest wheat producer and Brazil the largest beef producer – as well as becoming a rival to the United States in its maize and soya production.

European policy is floundering in this new world order.

Only for France it is likely that the Mercosur deal with South America would have been signed by now.

We have no clear policy on what degree of self-sufficiency in food Europe should aim for, neither have we a clear view on how imports from the cheapest producers in the world should be allowed onto the European market.

These are fundamental questions affecting the future supply of food to Europe’s population – how its land should be used and how its farmers earn a livelihood.

At present, a fundamental reappraisal of Europe’s agricultural policy is taking place under a German academic - the preliminary report is due next month.

Member states will have to decide. Ireland, with like-minded countries, should be preparing its position now.