The long awaited Bews Report on the future funding of agriculture has been published. It recommends an extra €60 million (£51.4m) over the next two years for farmers.
Whilst visiting Scotland, Prime Minister Boris Johnson agreed to the recommendations of the Bews Report and added that the £51.4m would come over the next two years for Scottish farmers.
Only £30million was originally allocated to Scotland by the UK Government from EU Convergence Funding due to Scottish farmers in 2013. The vast majority of the £190million from the EU was distributed to other parts of the UK.
The Bews Report covers funding for the period from April 2020, finance which will be sorely needed for Scottish farmers to mitigate the worst effects of a No Deal Brexit.
Fergus Ewing, Rural Economy Secretary in the Scottish Government said:
“For five years, we have resolutely been arguing for the rights of Scotland’s farmers, cajoling and urging the UK Government to rectify this historic injustice, which has seen Scottish farmers miss out on up to £160 million of financial support over the last six years.
“And while it is important that the past monies are now being repatriated, we also needed to stop the unfairness continuing into the future. I therefore welcome the findings of Lord Bew and his review panel, which call on the UK Government to increase future funding by up to €60 million over two years as a result.”
Andrew McCornick , NFU Scotland President, met with Boris Johnson yesterday morning on his Scottish Visit. He said:
“The two announcements will inject £211 million into Scottish agriculture over the next two years. At a time of uncertainty, that represents the largest funding uplift for the sector in recent memory.
“Securing a fair agricultural funding settlement that recognised the flaws in the historic approach has been a priority for NFU Scotland for six years. We thank Lord Bew for undertaking this review and his conclusions on how agricultural funding should be allocated. We also thank former NFUS President Jim Walker for the tenacity he showed as the Scottish representative on the Bew review group, and the significant contribution he has made to ensuring future agricultural spending fairly represents the convergence settlement.
“Settling the issue around convergence comes at a time when we are weathering a political storm and many sectors of Scottish farming and crofting are enduring significant price and cost pressure. We want our industry to come out the other side of the current turmoil and this huge uplift in funding will help us build greater resilience into our farming and food sectors.”
Although the funding has been announced by the UK Government, Farming is a devolved issue and managing the distribution of the funds is a power retained by the Scottish Government. There are concerns that the funding might be slow in coming Scotland’s way.
Fergus Ewing said:
“With agriculture being fully devolved, I expect the UK Government to return this money to Scotland as soon as possible and without any strings attached. I am clear, that should we receive what has now been recommended, that it is only right and proper, given its origins, that this €60 million be ring-fenced in Scotland for agriculture.”
Farmers’ leaders also raised concerns with the Prime Minister over future trade arrangements. Scott Walker, NFU Scotland Chief Executive, emphasised the high quality of Scottish products to Boris Johnson.
Scott Walker said:
“It would be unacceptable for us domestically to produce to higher standards and then allow lower standard products into the UK. We have the ambition to double the size of the farming, food and drink industry in Scotland to £30 billion. We want to be able to export but we must ensure that products coming into the UK are equal to the standards to which we produce.
“We also raised our concern about the UK proposed tariff schedule. We should not be unilaterally cutting tariffs on some imported products as this will take away one of our key negotiation levers and place our farmers at a severe disadvantage.
“If the EU insists on imposing tariffs on Scottish farm products, then we should be doing the same in return. We have demanded that the UK reconsider its proposed tariff schedule.”