Farmers are facing a triple whammy.
Firstly, forty per cent of our lamb goes to the European Union (EU) along with large exports of wheat and beef. Even with the thin deal we have with the EU, farmers are now at a commercial disadvantage due to administrative costs.
Secondly, Trump massively increased support to American farmers. Because of this and their less stringent rules regarding production, the US can easily undercut British farmers (who will need to maintain high standards in a UK-EU deal) and we could end up importing low standard foodstuffs.
Thirdly, as if that was not enough, the government plans to phase out agricultural support and this will be reduced to zero by 2028, just seven years away. Anything between 60-80 per cent of a farmer’s profits come now from Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) payments.
In future they will receive environmental management payments instead.
In an average year, a 200-300 acre farm would only make a £6-7,000 a year profit without government support. Many farmers are diversifying to try and make a living. So, they take in lodgers, do bed and breakfast and similar schemes.
It will get to the point that one farmer will need between 1,200 -1,500 acres to make any sort of living from farming alone. At this rate we could end up with mega farms or zero farms. Anything marginal will go. However, it’s hard to scale up and create bigger farms due to our historic framework of higgledy-piggledy villages and roads.
We might think that the government is throwing farmers a lifeline by letting them do environmental improvement work under the new government Environmental Land Management proposals. However, farmers will not be able to make any money out of it, such is the nature of the scheme.
The future for our farmers looks very bleak indeed.