‘Tory MPs press Osborne on benefits‘ was a headline on the FT website on Tuesday evening, referring to the wish of some Conservative MPs to cut benefits in order to reduce government spending. Apparently the linking of benefits to inflation could be changed to a link to earningsbut only over the Liberal Democrats’ bodies – so that’ll probably happen as they seem a lifeless lot these days.
When I saw that Peter Kendall was having lunch with the Prime Minister yesterday I assumed that he was showing the caring side of the NFU and offering up some of the income support received by the wealthiest in the country through the Single Farm Payment. But sadly, that wasn’t the case.
Just to recap: the Single Farm Payment is income support for farmers (most British farmers and most EU farmers) that is a hang-over from production subsidies that did so much harm in the past. Almost all farmers (there are some small-ish sectors that never got EU subsidies) get cheques from you and me which are not related to the farmers’ wealth or poverty, environmental excellence or misdemeanours, size, shape, age, gender or anything except the fact that the land they own used to get subsidies in the past. So the Duke of Westminster will get these subsidies in the same way, but obviously to a much larger extent, than does the the poorest farmer in the land.
This blog is in favour of public money going to the farming community but would like to see the system overhauled completely. It cannot be right that the public sector loses jobs and pension entitlements, and those apparently deserving of payments from the state see their payments reduced, whilst billions of pounds are misspent every year on crude income support for farmers.
Although Mr Kendall is not thought to have handed over a large cheque in Downing St yesterday there is likely to be an overall cut in CAP spending in future, as there has been in past reviews of the system. The question is, will the cuts be made in the right places? Will cuts in budgets lead to better environmental delivery and fairer allocation of resources to the needy rather than the greedy amongst the farming community?
At this time of harvest festivals, the President of the NFU ought to be making a public broadcast thanking the rest of the country for not realising that, even in a time of austerity, when even the needy must do their bit for the country’s finances, the ordinary taxpayer provides billions of pounds of income support for farmers regardless of need.