Leading University of Exeter academic and SWEEP Director, Professor Ian Bateman, who has advised the government on farming policy and subsidies post-Brexit, is scheduled to appear on BBC Countryfile to discuss the issues.
Professor Bateman, who is also Director of the Land, Environment, Economics and Policy Institute (LEEP) at the University’s Business School is a member of the Government’s Natural Capital Committee and as such has provided the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Rt Hon Michael Gove, MP, with advice on a new approach to agriculture once the UK is no longer in the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
CAP was originally designed to stimulate food production in Europe after the Second World War but has long been criticised for directing payments in such a way that have led to environmental damage; including soil exhaustion, a dramatic reduction in farm birds such as the Cirl Bunting and waterways pollution.
“Whether they are pro- or anti-Brexit, most people agree that the CAP is flawed.” said Professor Bateman. “Yet this policy has dominated UK farming for well over 40 years now, so it’s no exaggeration to say that this is a once in a generation opportunity to change things for the better.”
The current system is unusual in that it subsidises a private enterprise – food production – with public money. So it means taxpayers currently pay twice for their food, once in taxes and once when they buy their food. Its distribution among farms has also been deemed unfair.
“Three-quarters of the £3 billion in public subsidies currently goes to just one quarter of farms, which includes the richest landowners in the country,” added Professor Bateman. “More than half of UK farmers currently share just 10% of the money.
“What we don’t adequately pay farmers for are all of the other valuable public benefits they can provide, such as recreation areas near where people live, cleaner water, cleaner air, reduced risk of flooding, a habitat for Britain’s endangered wild species. These cost money but we currently expect farmers to do this for nothing. These issues and possible solutions are discussed on the programme.”
You can watch this episode of Countryfile on the BBC iPlayer until 14 April 2019. The segment on post-Brexit policy begins at 13.37mins.
Read Professor Bateman’s paper Public funding for public goods: A post-Brexit perspective on principles for agricultural policy.