2018-12-19 

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The Public View of Future Farming Subsidies

The Landed Estates and Rural Business Group of Saffery Champness commissioned a survey through YouGov Plc in November 2018 to investigate whether the GB public has a view on proposed farming subsidies after Brexit coupled with the potential impact of this on the cost of UK produced food.

Headlines from the survey were as follows.

Farming subsidy after we leave the EU should continue

Government funding of farming subsidies after we leave the EU should remain the same at around £3 billion per annum was the view expressed by 32% of survey respondents. 20% said farming subsidies should increase after leaving the EU, and 9% said they should decrease. Just 7% said there should be no farming subsidy.

Lettuce

Paying farmers subsidy for delivery of public goods is more strongly supported than paying subsidy to farmers to produce food

The switch to paying farmers for delivery of public goods rather than producing food was strongly supported. 47% of respondents supported this approach against just 9% who ‘strongly opposed’ or ‘tended to oppose’ it. Public goods were described as including creating new habitats for wildlife, improving soil health, reducing emissions, promoting greater biodiversity as well as encouraging public access and improved health and welfare for farmed animals.

Of those who supported the proposed new subsidy system more (54%) had voted ‘remain’ in the EU referendum than those who voted ‘leave’ (45%).

Safeguarding farm businesses is more important than allocating subsidy based on the delivery of public goods

Asked whether the new subsidy system might place farm businesses at risk of failure, of those expressing a view more respondents (37%) said that the protection of farm businesses was more important than allocating subsidies for the delivery of public goods. However, 20% of respondents still said that allocating subsidies for the delivery of public goods was more important than protecting farming businesses.

If the cost of UK produced food increases post Brexit there are more people prepared to pay for it than not

The survey found that post Brexit and with a new subsidy system, more (39%) would be either ‘very willing’ or ‘somewhat willing’ to pay more for UK produced food. Conversely 23% said they would be either ‘somewhat reluctant’ or ‘very reluctant’ to pay more. 28% were ambivalent and 11% expressed no view. The strongest reluctance geographically to pay more for UK produced food after Brexit was in Scotland followed by London.

A higher proportion of those who voted ‘leave’ in the EU referendum (47%) said that they would be prepared to pay more for UK produced food than those who voted ‘remain’ (37%).

Jamie Younger, Partner, Saffery Champness and Head of the firm’s Landed Estates and Rural Business Group, says:
“In broad terms this survey tells us that the British public is in favour of continuing to pay subsidies to farmers, but their preference is for these to be set against the delivery of public goods. However, they don’t want to see farm businesses going under as a consequence of system change.

“There also seems to be acceptance that the customer would be prepared to pay more for UK produced product after Brexit, although a significant proportion also expressed reluctance to do this.

“So, the GB public would accept domestically produced food costing more, they are happy to see subsidy to farmers continue, they don’t want to see farming businesses going bust, but they would favour a subsidy system based on the delivery of public goods.

“We think there are some strong messages here for Government and for the farming sector and, as the Agriculture Bill continues its progress, it is important that we get that and future support for farming right. The view from both sides of the farm gate is vital.”

The total sample size was 1,637 adults, with fieldwork undertaken by YouGov between 4 and 5 November 2018. The survey was carried out online and the figures weighted to be representative of all GB adults aged 18+.

Saffery Champness

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