With just over a month to go now until voters go to the polls for the EU membership referendum it seems sensible to overview what is going on within the farming industry in terms of opinion. On the face of it, for many, exiting the EU might seem like utter madness in the short term. After all, the Common Agricultural Policy still makes up 40% of EU spending and much of this is directed into the pockets of farmers to boost their bottom line in the form of subsidies. However, shouldn’t we be looking to the long term? True, as is pointed out in the video below, as Europe grows it is likely the subsidy received by British farmers will diminish. In the long term it is likely that subsidies will go all together, something I personally agree with. However, by voting to leave we would face utter uncertainty and a move towards the camp of Gove and Johnson, who have declared they will bring about cheaper food through relaxing international import regulations. This cannot be a good thing for home producers, explained by Sir Peter Kendall in the video below.
Opinion certainly seems to be mixed within the farming community. At the recent Pig and Poultry fair, majority views seem to suggest that leaving would be a massive gamble. However, a farmers weekly poll suggests that 67% of farmers favour leaving (out of just over 4000 who have voted in the poll). A recent debate in Kent resulted in a narrow win for remainers but with many abstainers.In Yorkshire, a debate also reached mixed conclusions:
It is fairly clear where most politicians involved with the sector stand. Current Environment Secretary Liz Truss is a powerful proponent for Remain whilst former Environment Secretary Owen Paterson and Farming Minister George Eustice favour Brexit.
With such uncertainty still out there we will have to wait and see what happens. It is very difficult to call which direction the farming community will swing. The key difficulty is that we haven’t been presented with a vision for what might happen if we were to vote for Brexit. With such a small percentage of Brits living and working in the countryside it is demographically unlikely that farmers would receive as much support as they do today if we were outside the EU. If we have an agriculture friendly government then perhaps; but if government focuses elsewhere – on education and healthcare for example – farmers could suffer.