Ed Davey challenges Boris Johnson to do more for farmers

Ed Davey took the opportunity at Prime Minister’s Questions today to challenge the Prime Minister to do more to support farmers. He mentioned three places in particular. Feel free to take a wild guess about which parliamentary constituency they are in.*

Farmers across our country are crucial to our nation’s prosperity, as has been shown, once again through the pandemic, but many are now on the brink. Farmers across the country, in villages such as Hodnet, Baschurch and Woodseaves and countless others, are about to see their payments cut by at least 5%, starting this very month. The Prime Minister promised a new support system, rewarding more sustainable farming, but in the meantime he seems prepared to see many British farms go bankrupt. There is an easy solution: stop cutting the current system’s essential payments until the new scheme is fully rolled out. Will the Prime Minister do that, and help our struggling farmers before it is too late?

The Prime Minister’s response will be of very little comfort to farmers who are struggling.

British food and farming does an absolutely outstanding job, and it is growing the whole time. Last night, I met representatives of the UK food and farming industry, which we support and continue to support with the same level of payments. But what we are also doing is opening up new opportunities for them around the world. I can tell the right hon. Gentleman that in every single embassy there is now a dedicated expert on supporting UK food and farming exports to the rest of the world, which support 4 million jobs in this country and earn this country £21 billion of revenue.

*Funnily enough, all three villages, Hodnet, Baschurch and Woodseaves, are in North Shropshire. In two weeks’ time, North Shropshire could have Lib Dem Helen Morgan as its MP and, as we know, Lib Dem MPs work very hard for their constituents.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • From what I remember Westminster’s lackadaisical funding of farming and communities, contributed much to the country joining the EU and having these matters handled by administrators rather than politicians.

    Whilst CAP and the Regional Development Fund weren’t perfect, they did provide several decades of stable and predictable funding…

  • Roland 6th Dec ’21 – 11:55am:
    Whilst CAP and the Regional Development Fund weren’t perfect, they did provide several decades of stable and predictable funding…

    There were many changes over the years often accompanied by bureaucratic delays in payments. The Common Agricultural Policy was dysfunctional for both farmers and the environment as explained by George Monbiot (although he argues for less financial support and more regulation)…

    ‘The one good thing about Brexit? Leaving the EU’s disgraceful farming system’ [October 2018]:

    I’m a remainer, but there’s one result of Brexit I can’t wait to see: leaving the EU’s common agricultural policy. This is the farm subsidy system that spends €50bn (£44bn) a year on achieving none of its objectives. It is among the most powerful drivers of environmental destruction in the northern hemisphere. Because payments are made only for land that’s in “agricultural condition”, the system creates a perverse incentive to clear wildlife habitats, even in places unsuitable for farming, to produce the empty ground that qualifies for public money. These payments have led to the destruction of hundreds of thousands of hectares of magnificent wild places across Europe. […]

    It is hard to discern any just principle behind an occupational qualification for receiving public money. Some farmers are poor, but seldom as poor as rural people who have no land, no buildings and no jobs. Why should one profession be supported when others aren’t?

    Yet even farmers have been hurt by these payments. European subsidies have helped turn farmland into a speculative honeypot, making it highly attractive to City financiers. The price of land has more than doubled since payments by the hectare were introduced, pushing it out of reach of most farmers.

  • Roland 6th Dec ’21 – 11:55am:
    From what I remember Westminster’s lackadaisical funding of farming and communities, contributed much to the country joining the EU…

    We joined what was then the EEC. It was sold to the public as just a “common market”. Membership may have suited wealthy Tory land-owners who benefited from higher food prices. De Gaulle could not understand why we wanted to join and lose our cheap food imports from the Commonwealth.

    ‘Britain in the 20th Century: The Collapse of the Postwar Settlement 1964 – 1979’ [Mach 2012]:

    The Common Market policy was based on a supra-national tariff, a common tariff of the Common Market countries, together with the sustaining of the incomes of farmers by policies which meant high prices for food. This obviously suited the Continental economies, particularly France, which had a very large agricultural sector. It did not suit our own economy, which had a very small agricultural sector and which relied on Commonwealth imports for cheap food. Our method of subsidising agriculture was quite different from that of the Continent.

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