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International Business Times UK
International Business Times UK
Jastine Beatrice Yap

UK Ministers Under Fire for Allegedly Reneging on £2.4 Billion Pledge to Support English Farmers

With the increased farming budget, the government assured farmers that they could enrich their environment while receiving substantial compensation. (Credit:

Ministers are under fire for allegedly reneging on their commitment to support English farmers after pledging to allocate £2.4 billion annually to agriculture by the conclusion of this parliamentary term.

This financial commitment was intended to replace the European Union's common agricultural policy, which compensated farmers based on the hectares of land under their management.

With the increased farming budget, the government assured farmers that they could enrich their environment while receiving substantial compensation for providing public goods, supporting both nature conservation and the income sustainability of farming.

Regrettably, the pledged £2.4 billion per year has yet to be fully disbursed.

According to figures from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), there was an underspending of £110 million in 2021/22 and £117 million in 2022/23, resulting in a total of £227 million in unspent funds as of now.

The controversy is exacerbated by factors such as the ongoing uncertainties surrounding Brexit and the global economic downturn.

The £227 million underspending has ignited a fierce debate within political circles, with critics arguing that the unallocated funds could have been a lifeline for farmers grappling with rising costs, unpredictable weather conditions and market uncertainties.

The accusation against ministers is not just about financial mismanagement but also about a betrayal of trust in a critical sector that plays a pivotal role in the country's food security.

The environmental schemes, characterised by assured payments to farmers, have contributed relatively modest amounts to farm finances, with the government allocating £515 million in 2021/22 and £688 million in 2022/23.

Steve Reed, the shadow environment secretary, pledged that Labour would address the funding gap for farmers, streamlining the process of obtaining funds from environmental schemes.

Reed criticised the Conservatives for reneging on promises and emphasised Labour's commitment to eliminating bureaucratic obstacles hindering farmers from receiving funding for nature and wildlife conservation efforts.

Reed said: "The Conservatives have broken yet another promise to our farmers. This money should be in the pockets of our farmers, who have instead been abandoned by this government.

"Labour will cut through the Tory bureaucracy that has blocked farmers from receiving funding for work that includes protecting nature and wildlife habitats on their land. But we will go further.

"Labour will tear down export barriers for farmers by seeking a veterinary agreement with the EU, ensure more food bought by the public sector is locally produced, and generate clean energy here in the UK to cut farmers' energy bills. Labour is determined to give farmers their future back," the shadow environment secretary concluded.

Environment Secretary Steve Barclay is set to address farmers at the Oxford Farming Conference, yet expectations are low for a detailed plan on how the missing budgetary funds will be allocated.

In response to the mounting criticism, government ministers have defended their actions, pointing to unexpected challenges and bureaucratic hurdles as reasons for the underspending.

However, these explanations have done little to quell the discontent among farmers and their advocates, who argue that adequate planning and proactive measures should have been in place to ensure the timely and effective distribution of funds.

The underspending controversy comes at a time when the agricultural sector is already grappling with the impacts of policy changes, climate variability and global market dynamics.

The repercussions of the alleged broken pledge extend beyond immediate financial concerns, touching on the broader issue of trust between the government and a sector vital to the nation's well-being.

As the political fallout intensifies, farmers and their supporters are mobilising to demand accountability and a clear roadmap for addressing the challenges facing the agricultural community.

The underspending saga serves as a stark reminder of the delicate balance between policy promises and the realities faced by those on the frontline of food production.

In the coming weeks, all eyes will be on Westminster as ministers face tough questions and calls for remedial action.

The outcome of this controversy will not only shape the government's standing within the agricultural sector but also influence the public's perception of its commitment to fulfilling promises made to key constituencies during times of need.

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