Monday, July 25, 2016

TFA produce plan for post-Brexit farm support

The Tenant Farmers Association is the first farm organisation to come up with a plan for a post-Brexit domestic agricultural policy. It should be noted that basic payments often go to landlords rather than tenants so their advocacy of the abolition of general support payments is not surprising,

What they propose is a three pillar scheme. There would be a new agri-environmental scheme that would set out a menu of costed options that farmers can choose from to deliver on their farms and would be judged on the basis of outcomes. It would include options for hill and upland farmers focusing on livestock production. Of course, they form a significant portion of the TFA membership, but many analysts think that support payments should move 'up the hill'.

Second there would be a farm business development scheme to provide annual grants of up to £25,000 a farm a year to assist with the implementation of five year plans for farm development. This would take into account economic, social and environmental resilience. It strikes me that the administrative costs of this would be quite high in relation to the amount available, both for government and for farmers.

Third, there would be a package of near-market research and development, technology transfer, promotion, market development, brand development and other supply chain initiatives focused on supporting British-produced food. Our capability to provide scientifically based advice to farmers has been severely diminished and they have become increasingly reliant on private providers such as agronomists.

Public procurement of British food would be part of this effort, something also supported by the NFU. That sounds fine, but if you are a prison governor with a restricted budget but more autonomy to spend it, are you going to want to buy food that is more expensive?

There is talk of a coalition being formed between the NFU, the CLA and the TFA to provide a united front to government. Other groups might become involved such as the Food and Drink Federation and selected environmental organisations, although the NFU do not seem keen on working with them.

UK farmers are less productive than their counterparts in the Netherlands, France and the US. The CLA rightly argues that there must be an attempt to improve the productivity of the worst performers. The top ten per cent of British farmers are twice as productive as the bottom ten per cent.

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