Those of you who (like me!) follow The Archers on Radio 4, will have heard the debate about the extent to which the Common Agricultural Policy is, or is not, a good thing. The Archers has always been billed as an everyday story of country folk but, at the same time, it is renowned for its inclusion of serious agricultural issues as a pertinent talking point. This is very topical, of course, as many farmers are starting to receive their cheques representing the annual payment from the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy based on the number of Entitlements that they hold. For many, the past year will have been miserable with poor commodity prices and ever increasing input costs. It has been difficult to make the sums add up, not least the price of land and the level at which rents have risen. Thus, for many, the annual payment will come as a very welcome Christmas present indeed. It may not be gift-wrapped but, to many, it will mean just as much as if it had been.
Returning to The Archers, Brian Aldridge has been promoting the view that the Common Agricultural Policy simply distorts the market and that things would be much better for farmers without this contribution. It is a leap in the dark but an interesting hypothesis, nevertheless. As well as being interesting, it is not without its irony as Brian Aldridge will have been one of the most substantial beneficiaries from the Common Agricultural Policy payments in fictional Borsetshire over the years! All this has to be overlaid by what is happening in the wider economic picture because we must remind ourselves that DEFRA is one of those government departments which does not have its budget protected, unlike health or defence. As I understand it, DEFRA’s share of the current round of austerity cuts is £83 million though nobody knows yet how will this impact.
Many farmers will happily bank their EU money this winter and cross their fingers for a more profitable year in 2016 and all of us in the agri-legal team at Langleys wish you a very Happy Christmas and a successful new year.