As farmers in the South East contemplate life without their EU subsidies following the Referendum, rural affairs specialists at Bruton Knowles are calling on the Government to accelerate work on a replacement British Agricultural Policy.
Naomi Quick from the firm’s Guildford office said the threat to UK agriculture in leaving the EU is higher than in any other industry. Many farms are critically reliant on their subsidies and he has issued a rallying call for consumers to get behind farmers.
She said: “Direct subsidy represents nearly 60 per cent of average farm incomes but there is quite a difference by farm type.
“Mixed farms receive a 96 per cent subsidy as a percentage of farm income compared with poultry at just 6 per cent, although these percentages change year on year with variations in crop yields and output prices.
“In addition the CLA has estimated that there are around 16 million acres of farmland, which represents 37 per cent of UK farmland, under environmental management schemes.”
Naomi Quick said farmers need to be reassured that a replacement programme - in the form of a British Agricultural Policy – can be hammered out soon.
“The potential impact of complete subsidy removal on many sectors of the agricultural industry could be huge. The hardest hit would be the upland, tenanted and small family farmers, many of whom currently rely on subsidies to make ends meet.
“We need to see a blueprint for a British Agricultural Policy that maximises new opportunities and at the same time mitigates against risk. We already export to over 200 countries but Europe is still our biggest market. Negotiating and maintaining strong trade deals is vital to the future of British Agriculture.
“The Government needs to produce a workable British Agricultural Policy as soon as possible. There are many examples around the world where farms operate with no or little subsidy and productivity indexing brings into question whether heavily subsidised agriculture has in fact actually suppressed output in the UK.
“Countries like New Zealand have shown significant increases in output since subsidies were stopped in the early 1980s and this is down to major restructuring taking place within the agricultural sector, with many inefficient or uneconomic farms going out of business and producers having a much clearer focus on producing what consumers really want.”
“If the consumer wants cheap food in the UK then they are going to have to support farmers. If they do not support them with some sort of subsidy food prices will inevitably have to go up in order to support the rural economy and provide jobs. Without any kind of support many farmers in the uplands, tenanted and small family farm sectors will inevitably go out of business”