Monday, January 22, 2018

Dyson defends subsidies to big farms

Sir James Dyson has written to the Spectator in response to an article that said that subsidies 'absurdly' favour bigger farms.

He writes: 'My family's farming business, Beeswax Dyson Farming, farms 33,000 acres directly and has invested £75m in technology, training, soil improvement and environmental stewardship over the past five years. Subsidies we receive go directly into the activities they are designed to support but are dwarfed by our own investments.'

'If Britain wants an internationally competitive agricultural sector, rather than a domestic theme park, we must encourage investment in innovation and stewardship. Removing subsidies from efficient farms simply because they are large would remove their incentive to invest at scale. This will hurt the farming economy as we become increasingly uncompetitive against our EU counterparts.'

The 'big farms bad, small farm good' orthodoxy does need to be challenged. It is also important to raise the issue of international competitiveness which is rarely mentioned in discussion of the future of UK farm policy. Post-Brexit, UK farmers will be competing against farmers on the near continent still receiving CAP subsidies.

However, when one pays out blanket subsidies, there is no means of tracking or ensuring that they are used for investment rather than consumption. Sir James evidently does use them for investment, but this cannot be guaranteed.

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