THOSE WHO suggest that farmers should keep their single farm payment separate from the farm business have been branded irresponsible by Sir Don Curry, chairman of the government’s sustainable farming and food strategy implementation group.

If the SFP, which will total £3bn to UK producers this year, was not used for the farm business then the public would wonder why on earth farmers deserved the money, Sir Don told delegates at this week’s Semex dairy conference in Glasgow..

Cross-compliance, public goods, countryside features, habitats and animal welfare were just some of the things that taxpayers received from farmers.

“So how can anyone responsibly recommend that £3bn be put in the bank? The SFP must be regarded as a contribution to the fixed costs of the farm business. It should not subsidise enterprise costs, but it should be regarded as an income stream to set against fixed costs,” he said.

Sir Don believed the SFP would certainly be eroded over time. But he criticised “those fatalists” who proclaim that it will have disappeared within 10 years.

The only justification for removing the support within that timeframe would be if world standards of animal welfare, food safety and environmental protection rose to the same level as found in the EU. That would not happen, Sir Don predicted.

“The public demands these high standards that we operate to. But they are apparently unwilling to pay for them through a premium on the food we produce.

“So, for us to compete globally, we need continued taxpayers’ support. And, as an industry, it is our responsibility to show the public what we do if we are to succeed in retaining the SFP in future,” he said.