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Farmers Angry After UK Considers Diverting their Subsidies to Broadband

Monday, Jul 22nd, 2013 (10:05 am) - Score 977

The UK government’s Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson, has caused anger among farming communities by proposing to divert more than £300 million a year of their subsidies from Europe’s controversial 60bn Euro Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and to use it for improving rural broadband access.

Ordinarily farmers are more than happy to embrace the idea of better rural broadband and to extol its merits, while conflict over the CAP is usually confined to frustration about the amount of benefit being extracted by farmers in France.

The CAP is the most expensive scheme in Europe and accounts for a whopping 40% of its annual budget (France receives about 10bn Euros, Germany 7bn, Spain 7bn, Italy 6bn, UK 4bn and Poland 4bn etc.). It is partly designed to reward sustainable farming practices and to help farmers whom might otherwise struggle to survive in the face of cheap overseas imports.

Farming is also a very risky business, with huge highs (successful seasons) and massive lows (total crop failures and livestock deaths), but we all need it to survive since food is arguably a far more vital consideration than broadband (i.e. you can’t surf if you’re dead) and even politicians recognise its importance for maintaining social order. Never the less Owen Paterson may have other ideas.

Owen Paterson, UK Environment Secretary, said (Daily Express):

If you are an elderly person and can no longer drive you are massively disadvantaged but through broadband and Skype you can talk to your daughter in Sydney, Australia, and order every sort of entertainment and keep up to date with current affairs. Broadband helps the hospitality industry and it helps those going into food production like honey or cheese businesses. It’s building long-term sustainability in the countryside.”

Paterson’s view seems intended to coincide with a new study from Age UK, which found that a lack of fast broadband and other factors made life and modern communication a lot harder for older people whom live in rural parts of the United Kingdom.

However the National Farmers Union (NFU), Tenant Farmers Association (TFA) and Country Landowners Association (CLA) are somewhat less than pleased with the proposal.

Meurig Raymond, NFU Deputy President, said:

I cannot stress strongly enough the feeling of frustration to hear on the one hand, the Government’s backing for British food production, but its determination to disadvantage English farmers.

I just don’t see how cutting English farmers’ payments and channelling more money to environmental schemes that take land out of production and increase costs will do that.”

A broad EU deal to revamp the CAP has already been agreed but the full reform package is still open to change and indeed Owen Paterson has already confirmed that he wants to discuss the proposals with all interested parties including farmers.

By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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