UK: Ministers ‘must overcome outdated prejudices about farm subsidy’, says farmers’ leader

Government Ministers need to overcome outdated prejudices about farming subsidies, a UK farmers’ leader has warned.

National Farmers’ Union (NFU) President Peter Kendall told Conservative MPs that he looks for their backing to put in place the right framework to sustainably increase domestic production and avoid ideology-driven ambitions for Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform that will leave English farmers disadvantaged.

Speaking at the NFU fringe event at the Conservative party conference in Birmingham, Mr Kendall outlined his concerns that unjustified prejudices about the CAP, particularly relating to the role of direct support payments, could lead to the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) implementing policies in the UK that would put English farmers at a significant disadvantage to European counterparts.

“I am incredibly optimistic for the future of British agriculture, but it does worry me that the positive noises that I hear uttered by coalition Ministers on the importance of domestic production are not always matched by policy direction,” Mr Kendall said.

“Out-dated prejudices that continue to haunt the CAP must be challenged, so too the purely ideological driven policies supported by Treasury. I as much as anyone want farming to move to a place where it’s less dependent on public support, but to do so we have to nurture a system that allows farmers to produce food within a fair functioning market, that is responsive to price signals and consumer demands.

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“Some organisations and politicians argue that the only payment a farmer should receive, would be on the basis of delivering environmental public goods.

“I can’t think of any more pressing public good than a safe, healthy and affordable supply of food. And I’m not talking about the narrow definition of public goods espoused by economic theorists. I’m talking in simple terms of public benefit.

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“Does the public want CAP support targeted at UK farmers becoming glorified landscape gardeners, or to under-pin resilience in our farming businesses, so that farmers can focus on doing what they do best – producing home grown food? That to me is the public good the CAP should support, and which our politicians need to push in the negotiating rooms of Europe.”

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