Income support for farmers

The argument that Pillar 1 income support for farmers keeps food prices low for all of us is pretty far-fetched.  In the bad old days, subsidies were tied to production – you got paid by the taxpayer for every tonne of wheat you produced whether the market wanted it or not and that led to wheat mountains that represented taxpayers’ money piled up in barns all over Europe.  It also led to every acre of land being squeezed for production because there was a cast-iron market for the produce whereas farmers did not get paid for the yellowhammers or skylarks that were squeezed out of the countryside through these production methods.

These days, those subsidies come to most farmers as a payment (based on historical subsidies received on their land) regardless of their productivity or the environmental credentials of their farming.  It’s as though we gave all teachers a top-up to their salaries (based on how much they earned in the year 2000 or so) because we recognise there are many good teachers who need encouragement – the problem with this would be that all the bad teachers get the payments too and all the rich teachers who need no such support get it too.  And that’s where we are with Pillar 1 income support for farmers.

One justification claimed for this system of across-the-board income support is that it keeps food prices low.  Well, let’s double these payments then!  Let’s pay every barley baron and every hill farmer whose silage clamp pollutes the local stream twice as much, and let’s pay all those excellent farmers who are struggling to do the right thing twice as much too.  That’ll work won’t it?  Food prices will plummet?

Some readers of this blog don’t like the Pillar 1 income support payments being called income support payments – but that is what they are, and is what they are widely known as (see here, here, here, here, here).

I am entirely in favour of income support for farmers – provided that support is either related to need (which Pillar 1 is not) or is related to the delivery of wider public benefits such as wildlife (which Pillar 2 payments are).  That’s why it makes sense to defend Pillar 2 when money is tight and reform Pillar 1 payments.  That’s why, if you haven’t already you should write to President Barroso.




8 Replies to “Income support for farmers”

  1. Another relatively way of telling the truth although really hardly any of it true.
    If payments cut then food will be dearer —fact.
    You ought not to make almost completely untrue statements –ref farmers polluting streams,almost completely unheard of and farmers go to extreme measures to prevent.
    Think you could find dozens of worse examples of polluting than that example but perhaps less acceptable for your other readers.
    This is really over the top complaint bordering on being almost completely untrue and fines if caught mean very unlikely to happen except by accident,which of course may happen to yourself such as running into a deer with your car.
    People read your blog and believe it so surely you have a responsability to stick to the truth.Of course some things may be a difference of opinion between yourself and me but in this instance it amounts to being completely untrue and does farmers who go to lots of trouble to avoid silage pollution a disservice(if that is the word).You have obviously in this case very little knowledge of how we have worked very well with water authorities who have patiently helped us avoid silage polltion and as long as they have seen we take their proposals and implement them generally with farmers spending considerable time and money on anti-pollution measures it has been outstanding success.
    Finally if you have evidence of said silage pollution give us and water authorities the evidence.

    1. Dennis – you haven’t even attempted to explain how if payments are cut then food will be dearer. Please do have a go at this.

      You do state that ‘farmers polluting streams’ is ‘almost completely unheard of’ whereas the Scottish govenment says that ‘Silage effluent is the most common cause of agricultural pollution in Scotland’ – I can supply the link if you’d like it. And there are a number of recent incidents easily found on the web in Devon, Carmarthen and Co Tyrone (for starters). However, this blog was discussing the system of income support for farmers and used pollution simply as an example (it’s not a bad example either), but the point is, if we were designing a system of handing out money to farmers would we really include the rich, the polluting and the inefficient or might we want to target that support much better. There is not an anti-farmer sentiment in that idea.

  2. Of course if you had consulted some of us with a bit more knowledge about silage we would have told you almost all hill farmers make big bale silage approx 30% dry matter and a very simple fact is it is almost if not absolutely impossible to pollute with that stuff.It is laughable really but not very nice to be accused on internet which goes all over the world of something I would venture a guess as unheard of.Surely farmers in general must have done something serious to you but as innocent hill farming individuals surely not.

    1. Dennis – thank you but this is a blog about income support and how it goes to good and bad, deserving and undeserving, rich and poor, nice and nasty farmers.

  3. Well if silage pollution has taken place it will be by accident that of course you well know but would not suit your agenda to say so.You are obviously the one person in the world with the knowhow to never have a accident of any description.
    You are driving a bigger wedge between conservationists and farmers that will be more and more difficult in future as the best guess on T V this morning talks of population increases of 50%.That suggests to most people that it will be increasingly difficult to feed those people and even maintain where we are with conservation.You may say completely differently but evidence from around the world suggests that if food is scarce animals of all descriptions are killed and anything can be destroyed to grow crops.Not my wish just honest observations.
    You obviously dislike what I say and understand that but find it sad that you are in fact in my opinion having exactly the opposite effect to what you think you can achieve.What you and I lobby for is never going to have any effect in this context as it will be a E U decision and even 60 million in this country have had no effect on their decisions.

    1. Dennis – who said that pollution was deliberate? Not me.

      And you haven’t had a go at explaining how giving all farmers untargetted income support will keep food prices low. Are you continuing to duck that issue? Your best attempt so far is ‘If payments cut then food will be dearer – fact.’. Not exactly a cogent argument is it?

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