UK farm subsidies ‘poor value for money’

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A LEADING researcher who yesterday claimed that billions of pounds of farm subsidies were being misspent also said he believed Scottish farming would benefit from future climate change.

Professor Ian Bateman of the University of East Anglia claimed that the British landscape was not being used to its best advantage under the present subsidy system and taxpayers were not getting the environmental benefits their support deserved.

He and his research looked at half a million land-use records and found that, at present, UK land use represented poor value for society relative to the subsidy level, which exceeds £3 billion a year.

But Bateman said believed a refocusing of payments could substantially improve the situation – and said the new common agricultural policy was “moving in the right direction.”

He stressed that he was not arguing for a reduction in the amount of money farmers received, saying: “There is a good case for subsidising farmers to produce the things we want which are not paid for though market prices. That includes better habitats for biodiversity, high quality recreation areas and lower greenhouse gas emissions.

“We looked ahead to 2060 and took into account other factors that may impact farming such as changing policies, environmental regulations, market forces, changes in farming technology and climate change; all of which could altering the growing season and amounts of rainfall.”

And he said that, if the temperature kept rising, Scotland would benefit, with farmers having more growing options while in the east of England higher temperatures and lower rainfall would restrict the range of crops.