The future of many UK farming businesses looks uncertain, according to a new report on the agricultural implications of leaving the EU written by a University of Warwick academic.
Written by Professor Wyn Grant of the University of Warwick and the Farmer-Scientist Network, the report covers topics as diverse as the impact on the single farm payment, regulation, plant protection, world trade, animal health and welfare and migrant labour. The report is the result of a working party set up by the Network.
It was commissioned by the Yorkshire Agricultural Society, which hosts the Network, and it aims to inform and promote debate to highlight the issues which could potentially shape British agriculture. It is particularly timely given the recent statement by Environment Secretary, Liz Truss at the Oxford Farming Conference that there is no "Plan B" should the decision be to exit Europe.
Speaking in advance of the report's publication on Thursday 4 February, Professor Grant said it was hard to see any advantage to British farmers in leaving the EU. In the event of a "yes" vote, the lack of contingency planning by the Government would inevitably lead to a period of great uncertainty, for at least two years, as the new regime took shape, making medium and long term planning for farmers extremely difficult, he said.
Most farmers' concerns centre on the effect any decision would have on EU farm subsidies. Against a backdrop of falling farm incomes, subsidies can make the difference of running at a profit or a loss. Without the payments the future of many farm businesses would be in jeopardy, warned Professor Grant.
"There is a perception in the industry that leaving the EU would reduce the burden of regulation. I do not think there will be a bonfire of regulations as the problem is not just from Brussels but from gold-plating by London. There are legal complexities which have not been considered."
Powerful and influential lobby groups in Britain would have a louder voice in a smaller arena, and British farmers would not have the advantage of their European counterparts, particularly the French, fighting the farming corner, and Britain would still have to abide by EU regulations if it wanted to continue to export to Europe. The likely introduction of import tariffs on British goods and border controls would all have an impact, making British goods more expensive.
North Yorkshire uplands farmer Richard Findlay pointed out that 40% of UK lamb is sold to Europe so an exit would have a huge impact on that important market. "In most countries where there is no direct agricultural support, food is more expensive. It's a misconception that is a farming subsidy, it's not, it subsidises the cost of food on the shelves. Everyone has to eat and prices will go up. Food security should be higher on everyone's agenda."
Nigel Pulling Chief Executive of the Yorkshire Agricultural Society likened leaving Europe to a "leap in the dark."
"While there is some dissatisfaction with Europe there is at least certainty. What this report has highlighted is the complexity of the number of different issues we are facing, but the Government hasn't filled in any of the blanks. A real concern is that in any negotiations, agriculture would suffer against other sectors such as financial services and the pharmaceutical industry which make a greater contribution to the UK's GDP, but what could be more important than the food we eat."
For further details contact Nicola Jones, Communications Manager, University of Warwick
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The Yorkshire Agricultural Society was established in 1837 with the primary purpose of holding an agricultural show and for the furtherance and support of farming in the region. This ethos continues today, through its flagship events, the Great Yorkshire Show (Tues 12 - Thurs 14 July 2016) and Countryside Live, (Sat 22 and Sun 23 October 2016). Year round it has an active programme of events and activities supporting the farming and rural communities, particularly in the North of England. It also runs Fodder, the award winning regional food shop and café. The Society is based at the Great Yorkshire Showground, Harrogate, N. Yorkshire. For more information see http://www.
Biographical details: Professor Wyn Grant and Richard Findlay
Enjoyed an academic career of over 40 years and has made significant contributions to the study of comparative public policy, particularly agricultural policy. In the past decade Wyn has been engaged in interdisciplinary work on agricultural topics with animal and plant scientists.
A BA in Politics from Leicester University, an MSc in Politics from Strathclyde and a PhD from Exeter University, Wyn has worked at the University of Warwick since 1971, and specialised on agricultural policy since the 1970s.
Served as Head of Department of Politics and International Studies at the University of Warwick from 1990 to 1997, Wyn has been extensively involved in the Research Councils' Rural Economy and Land Use (RELU) programme as principal investigator for a project on biological alternatives to chemical pesticides and deputy principal investigator for a project on the Governance of Livestock Diseases (GoLD).
Throughout 2000 - 2010, Wyn undertook extensive work with the Political Studies Association and International Political Science Association. Elected as an Academician of the Academy of Social Sciences in February 2011, Wyn was awarded a Diamond Jubilee Lifetime Achievement Award in Political Studies by the Political Studies Association in 2010, and a special International Award in 2011.
Broad media experience on television (BBC, Channel 4, Sky), radio (Radio 4, Radio 5, PBS United States, local radio stations) and in print media as a commentator on agricultural policy.
A successful livestock business at Quarry Farm, near Whitby in the heart of the North York Moors National Park is run by Richard and his family. The farm comprises of over 145 acres and tenants on 165 acres with 636 moor rights on Westerdale Common (1200 acres).
The family rear a herd of 100 continental cross suckler cows, a hill flock of Swaledale sheep, a pedigree flock of Beltex sheep, and some crossbred ewes. In 2006, Richard and his family inherited five beehives, which led to diversification and beeswax and honey products are now also produced, under the brand name Westerdale Apiaries.
A founder member of the Seven Hills Farmer Co-operative, established after the Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak of 2001, and first made possible through support from HRHThe Prince of Wales 'Seeing is Believing' initiative and a visit from Business in the Community.
The origin of the deal was a visit to farms in the North York Moors, to explore ways in which businesses could help hard-pressed hill farmers within the National Park. Following the success of the visit, The Prince of Wales committed £39,000 over a two year period to the Yorkshire Moors Agricultural Apprenticeship Scheme which aims to ensure that these farming skills do not die out, by offering apprenticeships to young people aspiring to be upland hill farmers or work on upland farms.