Sunday, 24 September 2017

Farming Leaders Warn of £250m Cash Shortfall from Tory Brexit Plans

May speech has sown yet more confusion over farming funding

Farming leaders have today warned that Scottish farmers could lose more than £250m a year as a result of Brexit – putting further pressure on the UK Government to end the damaging uncertainty around agricultural support.

Today’s Sunday Times reports that Andrew McCornick, NFUS President, has said that moving to a Barnett share of agricultural support rather than on the existing share of support, “would effectively halve the sum coming to Scotland, and would be catastrophic for our farming and crofting sectors” – estimated at around £250m.

Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing is due to meet DEFRA Secretary Michael Gove in London tomorrow (Monday), alongside Welsh Environment Secretary Lesley Griffiths and officials from the Northern Ireland Executive.

Mr Ewing has already written to Mr Gove seeking more detail on future funding arrangements for the agricultural sector in light of Brexit.

Scottish farmers are currently missing out on £160m in convergence payments – Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) convergence uplift money allocated to the UK by the EU to bring per hectare support up to the European average – which the UK Government has not distributed to Scotland. This equates to an estimated £14,000 per hill farmer over the six-year period.

Tomorrow’s meeting follows the Prime Minister’s speech in Florence, in which she made no mention of the Common Agricultural Policy. Following her speech, contradictory reports have emerged from within the UK Government regards their plans for CAP.

While one source appears to have confirmed to the media that the UK will leave the Common Agricultural Policy after the implementation phase, a separate source insisted that no decision has yet been taken on when the UK leaves CAP.

Commenting, Stephen Gethins MP said:

“This is the latest stark warning from Scotland’s farming leaders that any attempt by the Tories to water down the existing financial support could be potentially catastrophic for producers in Scottish agriculture and our food and drink sectors.

“The Tories have made vague promises about maintaining funding, but have still been unable to answer basic questions about what this will mean in practice.

“There has so far been absolutely no evidence that the UK Government are prepared to take action to deliver Scotland’s fair share of convergence funding – short-changing our hill farmers to the tune of £160m.

“And despite the Prime Minister’s most recent attempt to offer clarity for our farmers, very simple questions still remain.

“Farmers, foresters and businesses need time to properly plan for the years ahead – but that forward planning is being made immeasurably more difficult by a UK Government which is piling uncertainty on top of uncertainty.

“We will not accept any Westminster power grab as part of the Brexit process – nor will we accept any kind of financial grab.”
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