Govt report: A response from Exeter

Responding to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee’s report, The future for food, farming and the environment, Professor Ian Bateman, Professor of Environmental Economics, Director of the Land, Environment, Economics and Policy Institute (LEEP) at the University of Exeter, said:  “The argument that we should use public money to fund decent levels of animal welfare is fraught with moral hazard if this translates into in effect paying individuals to not treat animals badly. This is better dealt with through clear regulations prohibiting poor welfare backed with trade restrictions against the import of food produced to lower standards.

“The report argues that public health could be improved through an expansion of some sectors of UK agriculture. This is well-meaning but misguided.  Access to food is a public good and preventing food poverty is extremely important. However, trying to ensure that the poorest consumers in society have access to high quality food by subsidising food producers is at best highly inefficient and likely to be a complete waste of taxpayers’ money. Food producers quite understandably sell to the highest bidder – that’s not going to be the poor. We should subsidise access to food not its production.

“The government are right to target environmental improvement as the key public good farmers can provide.

“The present subsidy system is grossly unfair giving three quarters of taxpayers’ money to the one quarter of biggest, and typically richest, farmers in the country simply because they own the most land. The same budget could be reallocated to provide an income safety net to alleviate poverty amongst the poorest farmers in the country and still produce massive environmental improvements. This would be a win-win for the environment, for tax-payers and society, and for the majority of farmers.”


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About The Author

John Swire - Editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer as well as responsibility for the Agronomist and Arable Farmer and Farm Business websites. After 17 years milking cows on the family farm John started writing about agriculture in 1998 and has since written for a variety of publications and has developed a wide circle of contacts within the industry. When not working John is a season ticket holder at Stoke City and also of late has become a fitness freak, listing cycling, swimming and walking as his exercises of choice.