Ninety per cent of the world's grain trade is controlled by four giant multinationals. The biggest, Cargills, is the largest private company in the world and has a turnover that dwarfs most government budgets. These are the faceless people who, along with supermarkets, fix the price of food - producers and consumers are powerless by comparison.
Listening to Borders farmers explain to us politicians the complex array of online form filling the job now involves makes you wonder how they ever find time to produce our food. But somehow, they do.
The meeting brought home the unique needs of Scottish farmers and - in my view - the importance of having a clear voice to speak for Scotland in Europe. The Common Agriculture Policy is currently being reformed, but there is concern that the London government's obsession with cutting costs and ending direct subsidies to farmers could really hurt Scotland. This is why it is so important to have more influence in Brussels - which is why I favour independence.
Just one example. Scottish rural communities have been badly affected by the decline of sheep farming. It is now more worthwhile to plant trees - but forests are not labour intensive and the decline in agricultural work causes depopulation and its knock on effects - such as the threat to village schools. The ludicrous bureaucracy doesn't help. I heard today that those who still raise sheep are now required by law to put two tags on their ears even if the animals are not being moved. Other issues raised were the rising cost of fertilizer, and world shortages. The Chinese are already wise to this and have begun to buy up potash mines in North Africa, to ensure their own supply. Farmers, even in the quietest corners of rural Scotland are more tuned than city dwellers to the real consequences of globalization.
It's not all bad news, though. In the Borders, most of the farms are tenanted, which is a good thing because the pressure from supermarkets and giant agri-business has resulted in the consolidation of farmland, squeezing out traditional farming families and making it difficult for young entrants. So in this case the presence of a large landowner can be positive - if he or she manage well and fairly. There is also a lot of approval of the Scottish Government's focus on growing the food and drink business and, of course, the Scottish Rural Development Programme. One of the big achievements of the SNP between 2007-2011 was increasing the value of produce by a third. St Boswells, where the NFUs meeting was held, has its own excellent example of added value - the top Scottish beef sausages of 2010, as produced by the village butcher, J C Douglas. I got some for tea and can personally recommend them, followed by Scottish strawberries and Cream of Galloway ice cream. Yum. I feel this commitment to Scottish produce allowed me to cheat a bit with Waitrose microwaveable mash and balsamic vinegar, not local I'm afraid...but great with the sausages.
The town is beautiful, with the prettiest cottage gardens behind grey stone walls. It's famous for the St Boswells Fair, of course, where gypsy travellers once traded horses. There were a few painted caravans opposite the hotel where we met, but, funnily enough, none of the politicians present took up the "genuine Romany" offer to have their fortunes told. Maybe because we are so confident!
St Boswell's Fair is still held each year on July 18. It was so popular in the 19th century that James Hogg refused Sir Walter Scott's invitation to George IV's infamous Edinburgh jaunt because he didn't want to miss it. St Boswell's Fair was, it seems, far more enticing than a glimpse of Hanoverian leg in flesh coloured stocking...