Libs Dems demand extra £1bn/year for farming

The Liberal Democrats have passed a motion at their autumn party conference calling for an extra £1bn/year to be added to the UK farming budget.

Research by the House of Commons Library, commissioned and analysed by the Lib Dems, has shown that farming subsidies have taken an 8.3% real-terms cut since 2019. 

If the 2019 funding of £3.304m had kept pace with inflation, the 2022 budget should have sat at £3.478m.

See also: Defra provides clarity on farming budget spend

Instead, last year it was £3.212m, meaning there was a £265m shortfall, or a real-terms cut of 8.3%. 

Lib Dem MP for Somerton and Frome Sarah Dyke, who comes from a family of farmers, accused the Conservative government of pushing farmers out of business through a lack of financial support and undercutting them in trade deals.

“The Conservatives have completely abandoned the farming community,” said Ms Dyke, when reading the motion at the conference in Bournemouth on Monday 25 September.

“Everywhere you turn, they are pushing farmers out of business, refusing to give them the financial support they need to keep feeding the nation their great produce.”

Ms Dyke called for more support for local produce, as opposed to post-Brexit trade deals that have undercut farmers and “pushed many farm businesses to the brink”.

“Without this investment, we will see more farms go under and the public will not be able to try our fantastic domestic produce,” said Ms Dyke.

“Farmers are essential to the UK economy and way of life. We have to ensure that can continue long into the future.”

Defra spent £2.23bn on the farming budget in the 2022-23 financial year, which was below the government’s commitment to spend an average of £2.4bn for each year across the life of this parliament.

‘Every penny to be spent’

Defra ministers have pledged to roll over any unspent money into 2024 and promised that every penny earmarked for agriculture by the Treasury will be spent.

The UK government currently allocates about £3.5bn in total to the UK agriculture budget each year – a legacy of the old EU CAP. This figure has not changed since Brexit, but has been eaten into by inflation.

In July, a study commissioned by the RSPB, the National Trust and the Wildlife Trusts, and launched at the Groundswell regenerative farming event, concluded devolved governments must invest at least £4.4bn/year in nature- and climate-friendly farming to meet environmental commitments.

Farmers Weekly has contacted Defra for a comment.

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