Almost three-quarters of farmers could not survive without direct payments, a Farmers Weekly poll found.

More than 600 people responded to the online survey and 71% said their business could not survive without direct payments.

Dairy farmer and chairman of Tiverton and Cullompton NFU branch David Bolt said the industry would need to change completely if these subsidies were removed.

“If the supermarkets and other buyers would pay more for the products we’d be fine, but they’re not paying enough,” he said.

“Most farmers are making a loss or breaking even before subsidies, and they’ve been crucial in a year like this.

“We’ve had a recent cut in milk price with Milk Link. Many people were struggling before and it’s definitely not getting better.”

The results of our poll come as Sir Jim Paice criticised the government’s stance on CAP reform and said the best outcome would be to phase out direct payments across the EU.

In an article on the Endeavor Public Affairs website, the former farming minister said direct payments should be “phased out” in the long term, but stopping them immediately would destroy a large part of UK agriculture.

He wrote in the article: “I have believed for more than 20 years that direct support for farmers will and should end eventually; in England it is already completely separate from units of production.

“The coalition government inherited a policy that all direct support should stop immediately – a ludicrous position to adopt. It is unachievable and cuts the UK out of serious debate at the Council of Ministers. It would also destroy a large part of UK agriculture if it had no time to adapt.

“It is critical that David Cameron does not allow a cut to pillar two, especially as the UK gets a poor share of it anyway.”

A long-term plan to phase out direct payments across the whole EU and switch some of the funding into pillar two remains the best outcome of CAP reform, he said, but admitted this was unlikely.

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