Farmer’s fears for UK’s farm subsidy if Brexit goes ahead

Suffolk NFU chairman Colin Clifton Brown, who farms at Little Bradley, near Haverhill.

Suffolk NFU chairman Colin Clifton Brown, who farms at Little Bradley, near Haverhill. - Credit: Archant

Farm subsidy is likely to be cut if we leave the European Union, the new chairman of Suffolk National Farmers’ Union (NFU) fears.

Colin Clifton-Brown is urging farmers to get involved in the debate over Britain’s future in Europe, warning the result of the European Union (EU) referendum could have huge implications for British agriculture.

“We haven’t had the chance to vote on this for 40 years and it’s absolutely critical that farming issues are considered during the debate,” said the arable farmer, of Little Bradley near Haverhill.

“There are still so many unknowns at the moment, including what would happen if we were to leave the EU. No one is saying what would happen about financial support for agriculture but personally I think it is pretty safe to say it is likely to be less than under the current arrangements.”

Mr Clifton-Brown, a farmer’s son who spent 12 years working as a rural land agent in Buckinghamshire, Leicestershire and Suffolk, returned to the family farm to become a full-time farmer in 1998.

He now farms 1,800 acres of arable land, growing wheat, barley, oilseed rape, and marrowfat peas. The business also includes three diversification enterprises – property lets, horse livery yards and a wedding and function venue, the Garden Barn, run by wife Emily. He also has a share in an arable farm in Hungary.

He is following in his grandfather’s footsteps as county chairman. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown was chairman in 1957 and 1958, as well as MP for Bury St Edmunds in the 1940s.

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“There is a long-line of politicians in the family - my brother Geoffrey is MP for Cirencester - but I was never tempted to go into politics. I’m interested in farming politics, though, and I’m looking forward to my two years as county chairman,” he said.

“As well as the EU referendum, another major issue is the National Living Wage, which will have an impact on all sectors, but particularly horticultural businesses in Suffolk.

“Members are also really concerned about rural crime. There are fewer police officers about and we have to look after ourselves by taking sensible security precautions, such as using tracker devices. But what we would ask for is that when we do ring the police about rural crime they do respond.”

Colin and Emily have three sons, aged 23, 18 and 16 and he hopes at least one of them will be interested in taking over the family farm.

“As an industry we’ve always survived and I’m sure the long-term future is very positive for agriculture. It’s an exciting industry to be involved with,” he said.