Gove announces ‘fair funding’ review for farming

Defra secretary Michael Gove has announced a review he says will help ensure farmers across the UK receive a fair share of funding after Brexit.

An independent advisory panel will look at factors to determine the distribution of agricultural funding between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in this parliament.

See also: Scots angered by ‘watered-down’ review of CAP money allocation

The review will consider each country’s individual circumstances, including environmental, agricultural and socio-economic factors – as well as farm numbers and farm sizes.

Led by Lord Bew of Donegore, the panel will recommend ways of splitting the annual amount of convergence funding between the four nations after the UK has left the CAP.

Defra says the review will be informed by previous allocations, but will not revisit these decisions or redistribute money that has already been committed.

No Barnett formula

The government has already announced that it will not simply apply the Barnett formula to changes in Defra funding beyond the lifetime of the current parliament.

This means Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland will not just be allocated funding according to the population size of each nation, which are each significantly smaller than England.

Mr Gove said: “We are committed to making sure that future funding is fairly allocated.”

But NFU Scotland said it was “bitterly disappointing” that the review would not redress funding that the union says Scottish farmers have already missed out on.

NFU Scotland continues to argue that an extra £190m allocated by the EU to the UK in 2013 due to low area payments in Scotland should have been paid to Scottish farmers.

Instead, Defra shared the money across all four UK nations, arguing that total subsidy receipts by Scottish farmers were actually higher than the UK average.

‘Long overdue’

An NFU Scotland spokesperson described the review as long overdue.

But he added: “It is bitterly disappointing that the review will not redress the funding which Scottish farmers and crofters have lost out on since this decision was implemented in 2014.”

The spokesman said UK ministers had made clear to NFU Scotland that any review would also address the framework for agricultural spending post-Brexit.

“What has emerged in today’s terms of reference will not deliver on that,” he said.

“This review must be about agreeing the baseline for future funding allocations beyond the current parliament and existing UK government commitments to 2022.

“This baseline is an essential cornerstone on which Scotland will build its future agricultural policy.”

Farmers Union of Wales president Glyn Roberts was more welcoming.

The union had set out the arguments for ring-fenced national allocations which fairly reflected national needs, he said, and looked forward to discussing Wales’ priorities with Lord Bew.

The review will conclude before the Westminster government’s 2019 spending review.