Tag Archives: United Kingdom

Scotland ‘on message’ on farm subsidies

Scotland is far more in tune with current thinking on farm subsidies in mainland Europe than England and Wales, claims Scotland’s rural affairs minister Richard Lochhead. Addressing farmers at a Christmas Carcass competition in Inverurie, Mr Lochhead brought them glad tidings about the deep divide in agriculture policies on the two sides of the border. [...]

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UK watchdog slams farm payments mess

In one of its most critical ever reports, the National Audit Office has slammed the way in which the Rural Payments Agency has administered Single Farm Payments to farmers. It accused the agency of showing ‘scant regard to protecting public money’. The agency has wasted around £700m, the capital equivalent of building thirty secondary schools.

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Tackling the new (old) productivism

This afternoon I did a pre-recorded interview with BBC Radio 4′s Farming Today programme. The subject was the House of Lords report on the 2010 EU budget, which says too much money is being spent on agriculture. The first question I was asked by the presenter shows how deeply the new (old) productivism has taken [...]

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New BBC documentary series: The Future of Food

Last night, BBC2 screened the first of six hour-long episodes in a new documentary series, The Future of Food.

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UK wheat can compete – so does it need subsidies?

Russia and Romania may be two of the cheapest places in the world to produce wheat, but the UK is only a little way behind. Releasing the result of its Global Cost of Production Challenge, Bidwells Agriculture head of research Carl Atkin, said that despite the higher unit price of inputs in the UK, cost [...]

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Buckwell: blanket subsidies to continue after 2020

Pillar 1 subsidies are likely to continue after 2020, forecast Professor Allan Buckwell, the Policy Director of the Country Land and Business Association, in an interesting talk at the President’s Seminar of the Royal Agricultural Society of England (RASE) in London yesterday.

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UK farm unions call for a common EU agriculture policy

The four main farm unions of the United Kingdom today unveiled a joint manifesto aimed at the June elections to the European Parliament. The slim, 8 page document sets out a UK farmers’ agenda on a range of issues of concern. While the manifesto makes the case for lighter touch regulation of farming (e.g. on [...]

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UK Tories on a crooked path to protectionism?

I realise that opposition politicians have to say all things to all persons and jump on any bandgwagon that’s going on, but I must say that I found an interview with Nick Herbert, the shadow Defra secretary, in Farmers Weekly a bit disappointing. It remains to be seen whether the MP for Arundel and South [...]

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Spending money to pay it out

One of the many drawbacks of the CAP is that it costs a lot of money to run which reduces the sums that reach the supposed beneficiaries. It has now emerged in response to a parliamentary question that each claim for the Single Farm Payment (SFP), irrespective of its value costs £742 to process. Junior [...]

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Tenant farmer tells it like it is

I have a lot of sympathy with tenant farmers. It is sometimes said that farmers are asset rich but income poor, by which it is meant that they own a lot of extremely valuable land but don’t make a whole lot of profit from working it. In the case of tenant farmers, who have to [...]

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French CAP plan nixed by Council

Today’s meeting of the Agriculture Council witnessed the frequently irrestistable force of French attachment to the Common Agricultural Policy run into the occasionally immovable object of UK, Swedish and new member state desire for change. The result was that a much-trumpeted French vision paper for the future of the CAP beyond 2013 was roundly rejected. [...]

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Rising food prices and the dangers of imported inflation

When UK Chancellor Alistair Darling wrote to his finance minister colleagues on ECOFIN last month he made the case for reducing agricultural trade barriers and EU farm subsidies as a way of addressing what has become known as the ‘global food crisis’. Quite rightly much of the world’s attention has been focussed on the impact [...]

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GM feed ban crisis

A row over the banning of GM feed by British supermarkets raises wider issues about how far new technology can be used to solve problems of world food shortage. There have been calls for a second ‘green revolution’, but the first green revolution was based on intensive use of fertilisers and irrigation. Fertilisers are rocketing [...]

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Fischer Boel gives good soundbite

While many are disappointed by the lack of ambition in the Commission’s health check proposals, there’s no doubt that Commissioner Fischer Boel has been on form when it comes to the pithy soundbites.

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Farm land price boom

The cost of agricultural holdings across the EU has risen to record levels. However, this is not entirely good news for farmers. It makes it even harder for those who do not inherit to enter the industry, while only farmers wanting to retire can cash in. Tenant farmers face higher prices making life more difficult [...]

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Darling’s daring bid for reform

The UK Chancellor of the Exchequer (aka Finance Minister) Alistair Darling wrote earlier this week to all his counterparts on the Economic and Financial Affairs Council (ECOFIN) ahead of today’s meeting, setting out the case for a radical reform of the EU’s agriculture and trade policies. Specifically, he calls for the abolition of direct aids [...]

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Food security fears mount

Fears of unrest are increasing in developing countries as shortages develop of staple foods or prices increase substantially. Governments have cut import tariffs to cope with the problem, but hoarding to take advantage of future price rises has exacerbated the difficulties being encountered.

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The milk quota mess

As the debate goes on in the EU about whether milk quotas can be increased by 2 per cent as part of the soft landing when they are eventually abolished in 2015, it is an opportunity to reflect how milk quotas have affected the UK dairy industry. They were introduced in 1984 to ease the [...]

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Well fancy that…

What a difference a change of ministerial portfolio makes! Back in 2006, Hilary Benn MP, Secretary of State for International Development, was strident in his criticisms of the CAP: “Through the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), two fifths of the EU budget goes on subsidies and support to Europe’s farmers who represent 5% of Europe’s population, [...]

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Churchill, Malthus, Brown, Barnier and agricultural protectionism

Earlier this week, BBC Radio 4 broadcast Churchill Confidential, a dramatisation of British cabinet meetings chaired by Prime Minister Winston Churchill, records of which have only recently been released into the public domain. In this week’s episode, looking at Churchill’s second term of office (1951-55), we get an overview of the pressing issues of state [...]

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Public supports ‘consumer agenda’ in farm policy

A new survey of public opinion released today by the German Marshall Fund of the United States shows strong support for ‘consumer agenda’ in EU and US agriculture policies focused on food safety, the environment and the food supply. There was significantly less support for producer-oriented priorities like providing emergency financial relief to farmers, insuring [...]

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Specious arguments against limiting payments to largest farms

Initial media reaction to the Commission’s Health Check proposals has been predictable, with most papers picking up as the lead story the Commission’s proposal to apply a tapering reduction to direct payments to larger farms. The Financial Times story was headlined “Communists and royalty fight farm subsidy cuts.” Much was made of the fact that [...]

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Handy primer on CAP reform debate

The new issue of Food Ethics magazine is devoted to a discussion of CAP reform and the 2008 CAP Health Check. Alongside articles by CAP Health Check blogger Wyn Grant and me, you’ll find some useful analysis by many of the movers and shakers in the CAP debate, both in Brussels, the UK and elsewhere. [...]

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Productionists unite under food security banner

A number of producer interests would like to revive food security as a major driver of agricultural policy. Organisations like the Commercial Farmers Group (CFG) in the UK, a small grouping of leading producers, argue that new threats are present in the form of population growth, pandemic diseases, climate change, terrorist actions and increased demand [...]

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UK Conservatives endorse the CAP

John Gummer MP, the former UK Agriculture Minister who is currently advising Conservative Party leader David Cameron on farm policy, has taken a swipe those in his party who call for a repatriation of the EU’s common agricultural policy: “There is no doubt at all that unless we get a kind of common deal in [...]

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