The UK Government has announced that an independent advisory panel is to review how agricultural support is distributed between the home nations post-Brexit until 2022 (the year in which the next General Election is scheduled to be held). The statement by Department of the Environment, Fisheries and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) can be found here.
DEFRA has reported that it will not simply apply the Barnett Formula to agricultural funding post-Brexit, meaning that farmers will not just be allocated funding according to the population size of each nation. At present, Scotland receives twice as much funding for agricultural support than might be expected if the Barnett Formula was to be applied on its own.
The panel will be led by Lord Bew of Dunegore (the former chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life) and will look at environmental, agricultural and socio-economic factors to determine the distribution of agricultural funding between Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The review is to be informed by previous allocations but will not redistribute money that has already been committed.
What does this mean for Scotland?
With 85% of Scotland's agricultural land classified as ‘less favoured’ areas, the review is an opportunity to ensure that the challenges that come with farming Scotland's unique landscape are fully recognised in the future allocation of agricultural support.
The Scottish Government has, however, indicated that it is disappointed that the review will not look at redistributing historic allocations. In 2014, the UK Government handed out £160 million which was returned by the EU to all four home nations, despite the fact that it was only given back because of low area payments in Scotland. The National Farmers’ Union of Scotland continues to argue that this money should have been paid to Scottish farmers but DEFRA has stood by its decision arguing that the total agricultural support received by Scottish farmers was actually higher than the UK average.
Lord Bew will be joined on the panel by representatives from each of the four home nations. Membership is to be confirmed in due course.
The review will conclude prior to the UK Parliament's 2019 spending review with the aim of informing future funding decisions. The panel is expected to report on its findings in March 2019.