There’s a piece in The Telegraph by Owen Paterson about post-Brexit farm subsidies. I suspect he is being optimistic about what we will be able to do in the way of direct subsidies., and his view about the taxpayer’s meek acceptance of their money going to a class not renowned for poverty is more than optimistic – he is, after all, of farming stock, trained for fifty years on the CAP and behind the protectionist walls of the EU. He needs to take one step more in his thinking.
Trading on WTO terms after Brexit will place very tight restrictions on farming subsidies in the UK. At present, a large proportion of a farm’s profitability comes from subsidy and, if accountants can be believed, cutting off that subsidy may tip the farming sector into unprofitability.
Some idea of HMG’s thinking on the environment can be gained by Googling DEFRA’s draft Environment Bill 2018. Mr Gove’s unexpected commitment to environmental improvement, where a farmer is compensated for pursuing cultivation and set-aside practices which improve conservation and keep rivers clean and full of life, may just be permissible under the WTO rules which prohibit subsidy, but I wouldn’t bet on it. Remember, the WTO is a big supranational body which is subject to the same pressures as the UN, the World Bank and the EU, subversion by well-funded and special interests – not just special interests in the usual sense, but after Brexit we will be targeted by those who cannot afford for us to flourish outside the globalist new world order. Any loophole of interpretation that helps ruin our farming sector will be exploited as a means of damaging our prosperity and keeping other captive countries inside the prison. So we need to find a way to ensure our farming sector can flourish.
There is discussion in the farming community about the wisdom of concentrating on all farmland, some of which requires disproportionate inputs of cultivation and chemicals to raise its productivity when the same effort applied to more fertile acres would improve overall yield. Were this policy to be followed through there would then be land left fallow, managed merely for tidiness or abandoned to scrub and wildlife. Scrub and wildlife – we used to call that Nature.
Farmers have become used to getting cheques just for being farmers, having been attached to the EU teat in a classic EU ploy. Here’s a way they can earn the money that they expect from the taxpayer.
If agricultural subsidies are prohibited, what else do farmers have to sell? How about scrub and wildlife? How about local eco-tourism? England is one of the most crowded countries on Earth. 430 people per square kilometre, which includes places like Northumberland and the North York moors, Mostly it’s much more crowded than that. How about the farming industry selling something they already have a lot of, and which would be of benefit to those huddled masses? Space.
At present, there is no major incentive for a landowner to share that space with others, with the taxpayers who pay the subsidies. This won’t wash any longer: taxpayers will quite rightly demand their quid pro quo and, having paid the piper, they’ll want to call the tune. If farmers want to survive outside the cosy EU farming world they will need to utilise all their resources. HMG should pay them for environmental schemes but only on condition that those schemes are shared. A network of rights of way should be built around our towns and villages, giving access to places of exercise and recreation linked by green lanes. The intensive fields, the profitable fields, can be spared the foot fall, but the rest, the poorer land, can be put to good use for Nature, for exercise, for health. Who knows, seeing the green world up close might improve people’s respect for the reality away from their asphalt and brick worlds.
Would a system of payments by central government to a farmer for managing sections of his/her land for wildlife value, linked to public access, be acceptable as non-farming subsidies under WTO rules, especially as it could be paid for out of a tourism budget? Let’s face it, if it isn’t, then the globalist blob is even more powerful than we thought, and feeding ourselves will be only one of our problems.