Should farming continue to receive government funding? That was the question asked by a Radio Shropshire listener during Wednesday’s live husting. You can hear the debate online.
Labour’s Julia Buckley emphasised diversification and encouraging small farmers. Philip Dunne for the Conservatives said support would continue until 2022. Liberal Democrat Heather Kidd emphasised support for small and upland farms, and protection of the countryside. Green Hilary Wendt said farmers should be paid to protect the landscape and biodiversity, and help combat climate change.
Labour, Julia Buckley. Farmers are absolutely going to need funding. Our farming, particularly here in Shropshire has adapted to the funding available. Small family farms have been sold and have become larger because they get more subsidy for larger acreage. Removal of subsidy would be extremely painful, particularly in our rural constituency. We would put transitional funding in. The government should look at a strategy for farmers around diversification, new markets and particularly local markets. We want to help the small guys.
Conservatives, Philip Dunne. We would maintain the level of EU support to 2022. Develop a new scheme after Brexit. Any tapering of funding will be worked out then.
Lib Dems, Heather Kidd. We will underwrite funding for now but there has to be transition in place. I don’t think any farmer is expecting funding to stay the way it is. Europe was planning to change it anyway, so there was a question mark over funding anyway. The fundamental problem are the small farms and the upland farms, they will find it very difficult if subsidies disappear altogether. There are a number of environmental measures you can bring in, all sorts of measures, so we keep our countryside looking the way it does across South Shropshire.
Greens, Hilary Wendt. We would continue subsidies on the basis of public money for public goods. Enable farmers to do much more to protect our landscape, to combat climate change, to protect biodiversity, as well as production of food and bolstering the rural economy.