Andrea Leadsom is wrong – unfair subsidies, not red tape are the biggest farming problem

Andrea Leadsom is wrong – unfair subsidies, not red tape are the biggest farming problem

Date: 4 January 2017

Responding to Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom’s speech at the Oxford Farming Conference on ‘Ambition for food and farming industry’, NIck Dearden the director of Global Justice Now said:

“Andrea Leadsom’s obsession with red tape will certainly appeal to Brexit populists, but it doesn’t offer much concrete support to the challenges that the UK farming sector is facing. Contrary to her speech at the Oxford Farming Conference, the real threat to farming in the UK is not ‘red tape’, but an unfair system of subsidies that massively benefits the richest land owners while leaving small-scale farmers high and dry. 
“The uncertainty that is facing the UK agricultural sector as a result of Brexit could be resolved if the government was committed to a system of subsidies that promoted small farmers while fortifying the social and environmental benefits that farming can bring. Our research  analysing different subsidy models shows that such approach is not only possible, it could even work out over a billion pounds cheaper than the current model that channels enormous amounts of public money into the pockets of Britain’s wealthiest.“

Today Global Justice Now and New Economics Foundation released a report ‘Agricultural subsidies in the UK after Brexit – A progressive solution’ which  proposes a ‘new deal’ for Britain’s farmers, which would help struggling farmers, improve the environmental sustainability of farming – and save the taxpayer £1.1 billion. Campaigners say that the report offers “exciting, workable solutions that, if implemented, could radically alter the way we produce food in this country.”

The report argues that the new subsidies system could:

  1. Give each active farmer with at least one hectare of land a universal payment of £5,000. This would greatly redistribute the available funds across farmers and would level the playing field for small-scale producers, while reducing the total amount of money devoted to income support.
  2. Offer grants for medium-scale, regional infrastructure, including processing facilities and local business development programmes. This would allow local supply chains to be strengthened and maintained, while supporting new business models and small-scale producers.
  3. Offer subsidies for the provision of specific public goods.  Decisions on which public goods to prioritise and how to allocate budget would be devolved to regions to set 10-year frameworks based on local knowledge, subject to some nationally agreed constraints, such as climate change mitigation. Public goods could include better animal welfare and soil conservation.

Photo: Bs0u10e0/Flickr