Monday, January 16, 2017

'Cliff edge' for farmers

As I write this post, the Council of the National Farmers' Union is debating options for farming post Brexit a few miles away at Stoneleigh Park and none of the scenarios looks particularly promising.

If area subsidies are withdrawn overnight, farmers will face a 'cliff edge'. Many enterprises will go out of business and be consolidated into larger businesses or bought by foreign investors at a knockdown price.

We need a phasing out of existing forms of subsidy. Exactly how this might be done is something I am working on at the moment.

Earlier this morning I did a television interview for Reuters on the challenges for UK farming post Brexit. The interviewer made the point that they heard a lot in London about the needs of the financial services industry, but very little about farming. Exactly so.

Indeed, the UK Government is now contemplating a trade deal with New Zealand that would benefit the financial services industry, but allow in additional imports of lamb, to the detriment of the sheepmeat industry.

The Scottish Government is considering continuing general subsidies after Brexit, although they may face budgetary constraints in doing so. What is clear is that French and German farmers will continue to receive CAP subsidies which could amount to 20 per cent of the market value of product.

I want to move away from subsidies, and in particular blanket subsidies that are not related to a policy objective. But it must be done in a way that allows the industry to adjust.

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