Government pledges extra £56m in farm support

Scottish and Welsh farmers will be the main beneficiaries from an increase in government support for agriculture over the next two years.

It follows a review by Lord Bew into how cash is allocated between the four UK countries.

The UK budget for direct support will increase by £56.59m for 2020-2022 – with funding increased in Scotland and Wales and maintained in England and Northern Ireland.

Prime minister Boris Johnson confirmed this would mean a £51.4m boost for Scottish farmers during a visit to a farm in Aberdeenshire on Friday (6 September).

The money is in addition to £160m for Scottish farmers to settle a long-running dispute over ‘convergence funding’ designed to make payment rates more equal across the EU.

Upland producers

Mr Johnson had already promised this money while running for the Tory leadership earlier this summer, saying he would “make sure that Scotland’s farmers get the support that they are owed“.

Farmers in Wales will receive an additional £5m.

Hill farmers in both countries are likely to be the main beneficiaries, because they will be compensated for historically lower payment rates.

Lord Bew’s review says a “per-hectare” approach is not suitable for future support budgets, which should reflect the challenges facing farms operating in difficult environments.

It says governments in all parts of the UK should engage collectively to agree principles for the allocation of agriculture funding after 2022.

It says they should also recognise the critical value of farming by protecting – if not enhancing – future agriculture funding, particularly in the context of Brexit uncertainty.

Defra secretary Theresa Villiers said: “This new system will allow us to draw a line under decisions of the past and move towards a new model for farm support as we look ahead to our future outside the EU.”

Scottish reaction

Scotland’s rural economy secretary Fergus Ewing said it was important that the UK government delivered the funding swiftly.

“While it is important that the past monies are now being repatriated, we also needed to stop the unfairness continuing into the future,” he said.

Mr Ewing added: “With agriculture being fully devolved, I expect the UK government to return this money to Scotland as soon as possible and without any strings attached.

“I am clear, that should we receive what has now been recommended, that it is only right and proper, given its origins, that this money

be ring-fenced in Scotland for agriculture.”