Are farmers bonkers?

Flag_of_Europe.svgTomorrow we will find out whether farmers, in the shape of the NFU, are completely bonkers?

As has been rehearsed here already, some Brexiteers, including my MP, seem to think that we would continue to pay farmers lots of money just because we are in thrall to them, if we left the EU.

This scenario was replayed on the World this Weekend this lunchtime, after David Cameron has written to landowners (he has all their addresses in his phone) and ahead of the NFU deciding what it’s line will be on the EU referendum.

George Eustice
George Eustice

George Eustice, the longest serving Defra minister, and the least well known, is the only Defra minister in favour of Brexit and this might be because he doesn’t really seem to understand what would happen if the UK left the EU as far as farming is concerned.

Why would the UK taxpayer continue to give money to farmers just because they are farmers, and in similar amounts to those at the moment, at a time when almost every other area of public expenditure is under increased scrutiny?  The last thing the farming community wants to have to do is to justify why we all give them so much money without many strings attached. You wait for the guffaws if a farmer complains at having to fill in some forms to get £30,000 of public subsidy!  Nice work if you can get it.

Anyone looking for a campaign could do worse than start thinking about how to persuade the public to cut farming subsidies, and increase the strings attached to the payments, if we leave the EU.  Surely even the NFU might realise that?

Well, tomorrow we will see whether the NFU is going to vote for Christmas or not.

By Dimus (English Wikipedia, [1]) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
By Dimus (English Wikipedia, [1]) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
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25 Replies to “Are farmers bonkers?”

  1. Post Brexit the farmers would discover the true meaning of the free market. With subsidies slashed only very large savvy operators and nimble niche producers would survive. Goodbye small/medium sized generics and the uneconomic such as hill farms that many would say already have no economic right to exist. We've seen how dairy farms have been squeezed in recent years. Nothing compared with what awaits. As you ask Mark, is the NFU smarter than a turkey?

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    1. If farming subsidies continue they should be paid on a sliding scale with small farms getting a good basic income and larger landowners much less. And there should be proper monitoring of agri-environment schemes-come on, we have to find the jobs from somewhere...

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  2. Seems pretty simple to me. When I go shopping in Sainsbury's, Asda or wherever, I'm offered beef from Argentina, New Zealand lamb, Danish pork, vegetables from everywhere possibly excluding the dark side of the moon - the list goes on. So apart from the function of stewardship of OUR countryside, a duty which certain classes of landowners abuse in olympic proportions, I'm not sure what we pay them for in the first place.

    Running a farm is a business. Tory philosophy says businesses have to make profits in order to survive sand prosper. If they can't make profits without being handed large sums of taxpayers money then I'm not sure that we should be helping them anyway.

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  3. I think the Try party would continue to stuff subsidies down the throats of farmers, or at least the big ones anyway. You know, the Tory donors. Small farmers would get screwed to their bones faster than ever before though, because that would allow the big donors...er farmers to buy up the small ones. And of course a lot of that subsidy money comes back to the Tory party coffers, efficiently transferring public money into private pockets, just as with everything else. Unlike with the unemployed, poorly paid, and disabled, there would be little to no scrutiny and preconditions attached to this.

    The NFU, of course, does not represent small farmers, crofters, smallholders, allotmenteers, and other small agriculture trades. It represents the mega-farmers and moor owners.

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  4. Only slightly off topic, the well known countryside expert and conservationist Ian Botham has now come out noisily in favour of Brexit. Perhaps he thinks the British (soon just English?) taxpayer would be keen to continue pouring subsidies into grouse moors.

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  5. It'll be a hard sell to the British public to continue to dole out money for nothing on the scale that currently happens under CAP. People, you can't have libraries, youth clubs or public toilets, but moorland owner, you can continue to collect your area payment!! Of course it would need the press to flag it up and I doubt moorland owner Mr Dacre will be keen to do that!

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  6. Yes force farmers out of production.
    Would love to see those castigating and complaining about farmers get the medicine and I bet they would be the ones complaining loudest about food shortage.
    Get out there and buy land and become farmers grab some of that easy money,nearly as easy as those fat pensions lots of you receive.

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    1. Dennis you're missing the point. We also 'need' steel, coal and manufactured products but our Government has been happy to see those exposed to market forces. Why not farming? I'm not saying that's right or wrong; it's just about consistency. Ultimately my support for continued subsidy would be dependent on what conditions get put on the support.

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    2. Dennis - great to see you are still in the land of the living or at least reading blogs - yes I know that doesn't really pass for real life but Hey Ho! You must recall Mrs Caravan who Mr Blur installed as Housekeeper at Nobel House after the F&M fiasco? She put it about that we didn't really need the farmers she was in charge of as we are a Very Rich Nation and if we want more food we can just go abroad and buy some and then went off on holiday and brought the M5 to a halt at Gordano. She must have been right, even though she wasn't, as far as I am aware, a vegan, as we are steadily increasing the Food Deficit year on year and just in case there was any likelihood of reversing this trend Brown Balls Darling imported more and more people to make sure it went on happening and to rub the "Right's" noses in it. Whatever "it" was.

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    3. Yes if i was rich and greedy as hell i would buy a large farm in south east England and become a subsidy millionaire and do spend my time on the stock exchange so i could go shooting.
      If i was a small hill farmer i would struggle with a subsidy and in fact struggle even with one.
      The idea that you propose we can just 'go out there and buy land' says it all.

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      1. Rubbish,you do not have to be rich go and rent a farm and pick up all that easy money.
        Bet you sweat your guts out and regret it.
        I only want all those smart a*** conservationists WHO think there is easy money available to go rent a farm so that I can say well done you have got rich.
        Not one I bet has the guts to do it.
        Of course I am not putting all conservationists in the same basket,lots realise average farmers work damn hard for not much more than a living.

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    4. Personally, I would like to see a healthy farming industry maintained in the UK, by which I mean one where farmers are able to earn a decent living and wildlife is not squeezed off the map. For farmers the question is: is the industry likely to do better in the EU or out? It seems that the former is the case and that the current subsidy regime would be unlikely to be matched by a post Brexit British government. Why then are any farmers in favour of Brexit?

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      1. Jonathon,can only give you a guess.
        Farmers in my opinion got as much subsidy before we joined in comparable terms as now.
        If subsidies were culled then in the long run the food would have to fund 100% of farmers income and it would sort itself out even if unfortunately some would leave farming but that is happening now anyway.
        My guess is farmers like most groups are split 50/50 anyway

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      2. 'Why then are any farmers in favour of Brexit?'

        Judging some of the conversations I have had, some farmers believe that Brexit may enable the UK to negotiate more favourable trade tariffs, and by favourable they really mean protectionist.
        Many simply look at the fact that the UK pays approx. £6 billion a year into the CAP budget, and receives around £3 billion of that back. Based on those figures they assume that the Govt. wouldn't be averse to keep paying them £3 billion a year whilst trousering the other £3 billion.

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  7. This needs to be thrown into the debate:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mark-ross/farm-subsidies-new-zealand_b_1680259.html Edited extract:

    [ Subsidies are not] needed. New Zealand’s farm reforms of the 1980s dramatically illustrate the point. Faced with a budget crisis, New Zealand’s government decided to eliminate nearly all farm subsidies.
    ….. Did that cause a mass exodus from agriculture and an end to family farms?..... Just one percent of the country’s farmers could not adjust and were forced out ….. they restructured their operations, explored new markets, and returned to profitability. Today, New Zealand’s farming sector is more dynamic than ever, and the nation’s farmers are proud to be prospering without government hand-outs.

    Prior to the 1984 reforms, subsidies stifled farm productivity by distorting market signals and blocking innovation. Many farmers were farming for the sake of the subsidies. For example, nearly 40 percent of the average New Zealand sheep and beef farmer’s gross income came from government aid.

    When the subsidies were removed …. New Zealand farmers cut costs, diversified their land use, sought nonfarm income, and developed new products. …

    Since the reforms, agriculture’s contribution to New Zealand’s economy has remained steady at about 5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) …. By contrast, agriculture’s share of the economy has fallen in many other industrial countries.

    With the removal of subsidies in New Zealand, agricultural practices are driven by the demands of consumers, not by efforts to maximize the receipt of subsidies. At the same time, the whole agricultural supply chain has improved its efficiency and food safety has become paramount. Businesses that deliver inputs to farming have had to reduce their costs because farmers have insisted on greater value for money.

    More efficient agricultural production in New Zealand has also spurred better environmental management. Cutting farm subsidies, for example, has reduced the previous overuse of fertilizer. And cutting subsidies has broadened farm operations to encompass activities such as rural tourism that bring management of the rural environment to the fore.

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    1. NZ has sold much of its agriculture to China. Not sure that is a good long-term strategy. Lease it maybe but not sell the freehold.

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    2. Not applicable at all.
      We are not competing in general with New Zealand who any have a big climatic advantage.
      We are competing with the rest of Europe and we would need a level playing field of them getting no subsidies to be fair.In those circumstances U K farmers would I believe say bring it on.
      Conservationists just do not understand farming at all.
      The removal of subsidies would bring about a even worse loss of wildlife and birds in the countryside and goodness conservationists moan about it now
      M M rent a farm and have a go New Zealand style in UK.some have tried but it apparently does not work as lots of UK youngish farmers have gone on schemes to study N Z methods so it is quite well known how they do things.N Z systems are certainly not secret,crikey they taught us sheep shearing method in the 1950s and as it was good everyone copied immediately.

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    1. Well Filbert seems majority of 90 council members voted to stay in so that means about 212,000 other farmers may think differently.
      My bet is that the council members vote as it suits them and have absolutely no influence or take any notice of members opinions.

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