Survey reveals views on future farming subsidies and food costs

10 Jan 2019

tractor ploughing field

Saffery Champness’ Land & Rural Group commissioned a survey through YouGov Plc in November 2018 to find out what the British public thought of proposed changes to farming subsidies after Brexit, coupled with the potential impact of this on the cost of UK produced food.

 

Farming subsidy after we leave the EU should continue

Government funding of farming subsidies after we leave the EU should remain at the same level (at around £3 billion per annum) was the view expressed by 32% of survey respondents.

Figure 1 - Currently the UK government spends £3 billion per year on farming subsidies.

Paying farmers subsidies for delivery of public goods is more strongly supported than paying them subsidies to produce food

The switch to paying farmers for delivery of public goods rather than producing food was strongly supported. 47% of respondents supported this approach.

Public goods were described as including creating new habitats for wildlife, improving soil health, reducing emissions, promoting greater biodiversity as well as encouraging public access and improved health and welfare for farmed animals.

Of those who supported the proposed new subsidy system more (54%) had voted ‘remain’ in the EU referendum than those who voted ‘leave’ (45%).

Figure 2 - The government’s proposed new subsidy system would pay farmers for delivery of ‘public goods’ rather than producing food.

Safeguarding farm businesses is more important than allocating subsidies based on the delivery of public goods

More respondents (37%) said that the protection of farm businesses was more important than allocating subsidies for the delivery of public goods.

However, 20% of respondents said that allocating subsidies for the delivery of public goods was more important than protecting farming businesses.

 

Figure 3 - Currently, many farm businesses rely on direct payments from government subsides, and a change in the system could place some business at risk of failure.

If the cost of UK-produced food increases post-Brexit there are more people prepared to pay for it than not

Our survey found that post-Brexit and with a new subsidy system, more people (39%) would be either ‘very willing’ or ‘somewhat willing’ to pay more for UK produced food.

Conversely 23% said they would be either ‘somewhat reluctant’ or ‘very reluctant’ to pay more. 28% were ambivalent and 11% expressed no view.

The strongest reluctance geographically to pay more for UK produced food after Brexit was in Scotland followed by London.

Figure 4 - To what extent would you be willing to pay more for home grown (UK produced) food after as a consequence of the new farm subsidy system

A higher proportion of those who voted ‘leave’ in the EU referendum (47%) said that they would be prepared to pay more for UK produced food than those who voted ‘remain’ (37%).

David Chismon, Head of Saffery Champness’ Land & Rural Group, commented:

“In broad terms this survey tells us that the British public is in favour of continuing to pay subsidies to farmers, but their preference is for these to be set against the delivery of public goods. However, they don’t want to see farm businesses going under as a consequence of system change.

“There also seems to be acceptance that the customer would be prepared to pay more for UK produced product after Brexit, although a significant proportion also expressed reluctance to do this.

“So, the GB public would accept domestically produced food costing more, they are happy to see subsidy to farmers continue, they don’t want to see farming businesses going bust, but they would favour a subsidy system based on the delivery of public goods.

“We think there are some strong messages here for government and for the farming sector and, as the Agriculture Bill continues its progress, it is important that we get that and future support for farming right. The view from both sides of the farm gate is vital.”

The total sample size was 1,637 adults, with fieldwork undertaken by YouGov between 4 and 5 November 2018. The survey was carried out online and the figures weighted to be representative of all GB adults aged 18+.

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