Big Eye, August 23, 2016

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One of many surprising features that came to light after our decision to leave the EU was the number of farmers who voted ‘out’. Now, you’d assume that this fortunate group of landowners and businessmen would have done everything they could to cling onto the bottomless crock of gold that is “the European subsidy payments system”. But, for a variety of reasons, many of the lucky recipients of the £6 billion handed out annually to UK farmers decided they wanted more freedom from the irritating paperwork and EU interference that is part and parcel of riding on the biggest gravy train in the world. Hard to understand but as it happens they don’t have to worry because our generous and caring Government has pretty much guaranteed they’ll continue to be compensated for the thankless task of having to work the land to earn a crust.

The reason why we continue to hand out money to farmers is probably lost on most of the population but it’s worth noting that of all the money sloshing around in the European Union’s bank, approximately 40 per cent of the entire budget ends up in farmers’ pockets every year. Obviously we’ve all got to eat and so ensuring we all go to bed with full bellies every night wasn’t such a bad idea. Food security was the original basis behind the subsidies and as a policy it succeeded brilliantly! We now have uncontrollable obesity as all this cheap grub hits our ever-expanding waistlines.

Maybe it’s time to break the habit and switch this budget into other areas like health or preparations to deal with an ever-growing and increasingly dementia-ridden elderly population? It isn’t as though the largesse ends up supporting smaller farmers in struggling parts of the UK. Oh no! 80 per cent of agricultural subsidies end up being trousered by the richest 20 per cent of farmers to add to their fleet of Range Rovers.

It’s easy to be critical of this ‘system’ while wolfing down a heaving plate of food but times change and unless we question why we waste billions on an archaic policy that promotes destruction of the environment, encourages unsustainable overuse of the land, damages soil structures and converts the countryside into an industrial food and bio-fuel resource, we are heading for disaster.

This might seem like scare-mongering and although eco-armageddon may feel a long way from the spotlessly pricked and preened produce in Tescburys food aisle, I’d like to draw your attention to studies which indicate that a group of pesticides called neonicotinoids have been identified as being involved in the rapid decline of bee populations across the UK. Despite the subsidies, our farmers still lobby hard to retain use of this deadly insecticide without heed to the potentially catastrophic damage to us all.

Profit is their short-term goal and unless someone calls time on them and this kind of behaviour we could find ourselves queueing with the farmers for another handout ... but next time it’ll be with food bowls.