Heavy rainfall in 2012 cost farmers in Britain £1.3bn due to a lack of government delegated national food security measures such as insurance against extreme weather. According to figures released by the National Farmers Union (NFU), extreme rainfall resulted in a loss of £600m from poor wheat and potato harvests, and a further £700m of costs inclusive of feed for cattle unable to graze in the water-filled fields.
The Environment Secretary is interested in scrapping the European “Pillar 1” subsidies while the NFU wants to ensure fairness for farmers, proposing to do away with the subsidy only if the decision was carried through across Europe and the rest of the world. The subsidy pays farmers a fixed amount for owning land that is in production. Britain earns somewhere around £ 2.97bn annually under the EU scheme.
Peter Kendall, the president of NFU, has stated that an extreme weather payment or insurance to safeguard farmers’ interests and prevent their businesses from closing down during turbulent years is required. The proposition is not likely to go down well with the EU however, after years of fat subsidy payments and excess of food and milk production despite no pressure of demand.
There has been a downturn in the production of wheat, maize, dairy and other food products in the global agricultural sector since last year, causing a price influx, with the price of wheat increasing a whopping 25 %. The EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is considered by many in the government to be unnecessary, preferring payments to be dedicated solely towards bettering the environment instead.
The CAP acts as a lifeline for many farmers, especially with a mostly insurance-free scenario for damages and loss caused due to unfortunate weather conditions. Spokespeople from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) stated that they have made it easier for farmers by removing restrictions on when slurry can be spread on farms, relaxing application deadlines for funds, and permitting time for businesses to comfortably settle in to the scraping of CAP.
All of the decisions presented by Defra however, aren’t helping the farmers cope with the major looming issue of unpredictable extreme weather, altogether expected to increase in the coming years. Climate change is perceived to ring in more disruptive weather in the future, which makes the matter of national food security and agricultural preservation all the more important.