Chancellor’s Budget disappoints farming bodies

Farm industry bodies have expressed disappointment at Chancellor Philip Hammond’s budget statement, which they say missed opportunities to support British agriculture and the rural community.

NFU president Meurig Raymond said the budget was too focused on urban growth and there was little to benefit people who lived in the countryside. And he said he was disappointed at the lack of meaningful measures to help prepare farming businesses for Brexit.

See also: Budget 2017: What farmers need to know

“Our calls to create the right environment for investing in farming, to mitigate risks, are yet to be answered,” Mr Raymond said.

Long-term view

Dairy co-op Arla Foods also voiced concern over Brexit:

An Arla spokesman said: “[We are] disappointed by the Chancellor’s omission of plans for the UK’s £100bn agri-food industry.

“As we prepare to leave the EU, it is important now more than ever to take a long-term view to fiscal policy to help lay the groundwork for a successful departure.

“Arla Foods UK believes that the replacement of the CAP should be a key priority for the government, especially as agriculture relies on far longer planning cycles than the broader economy and a successful departure from the EU will rely on farmers.”

NFU Scotland chief executive Scott Walker said the budget was very light on any tangible measures that will excite and energise farmers, crofters, the agri-food sector or the rural economy.

“The budget could have been a good opportunity for the UK government to underline its commitment to UK and Scottish food producers by adopting measures that would help farm businesses to build resilience and deal with volatility at what is a pivotal moment of great uncertainty,” Mr Walker said.

However, while he said that positive announcements were few and far between, he welcomed the cancellation of planned fuel duty rises for petrol and diesel vehicles and the extension of the rural fuel duty rebate scheme for the Scottish islands to 2023.

‘A decade too late’

CLA president Tim Breitmeyer focused on business rates, which he said had been treated with “another inadequate partial intervention”.

“Businesses struggling to absorb dramatic rates bill increases imposed this April hoped for a complete freeze on increases planned for next year.

“Instead, the shift from an increase linked to the retail price index (4%) to the consumer price index (2.8%) is merely doing the right thing, but almost a decade too late,” said Mr Breitmeyer.

“The shift to a three-yearly revaluation is a positive step. We must never again see the dislocation caused by the seven-year delay in revaluations experienced in 2016.

“However, the key will be not the frequency of the revaluation, but the quality. Too many rural businesses still suffer from inaccurate ratings,” he added.

Urban focus

On rural home building Mr Breitmeyer said that the Budget’s urban focus is worrying.

“We need more homes of all types across the whole country. It is worrying for a Chancellor to be so explicit in describing a policy so completely focused on urban areas,” Mr Breitmeyer said.

“The shortage of homes in rural communities is no less acute than in our towns and cities. Another budget has gone by without making simple changes to tax and planning policy that could make a big difference,” he said.

However, Mr Breitmeyer welcomed the increase in the number of small sites in local plans and the further funding for the Home Builders’ Fund.

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