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British Farmers Struggle After Brexit

By: Samuel Lin

After the U.K. left the European Union on February 1st, 2020, British farmers have struggled to make money and cultivate crops. Farmers have stopped receiving subsidies from the EU, and there is a shortage of workers to harvest.

Before Brexit, British farmers received subsidies from the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). These subsidies comprised 20-60% of the farmer’s net income per year. After the UK left the European Union, farmers were unable to make a profit from their crops.

The post-Brexit payments given by the government are 35% less than CAP payments. However, the UK government is trying to give more payments to support the farmers. For instance, the UK government is giving a one-time payment of 1000 euros, or 1085 dollars, to farmers. Many farmers consider this meager payment not enough to sustain their farming.

“We’re only seeing the negative,” said farmer Ian Rickman. “. . . The [farming] industry was more or less chucked under a bus.”

Another problem caused by Brexit is a lack of immigrant workers. The post-Brexit immigration policy made it harder for immigrant workers to come in. This has led to a worker shortage of 330,000 people in the UK, according to Jonathan Portes, an economics professor at King’s College in London. The lack of workers and farmers has left 22 million pounds of food unharvested, worth 60 million euros, according to the National Farmers’ Union.

The U.K. government is trying its best to fix this problem. "DEFRA [Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs] is working closely with industry and other government departments to understand labor supply and demand,” said agricultural minister Lord Benyon. “To help our world-leading growers access the labor they need to ensure our crops are picked and not left unharvested."

Skyrocketing prices for fertilizer and feed are also devastating UK farmers. The fertilizer price in Britain has nearly doubled due to COVID-19 and the Russia-Ukraine war. Much of the fertilizer is imported from Russia, and because of the war, the UK has put sanctions on Russian fertilizer. In addition, to high fertilizer prices, the price of animal feed has risen by 60% and the price of energy has increased by 40%.

“The doubling of fertilizer prices, soaring energy costs, shortages of seasonal workers, plus apprehension about trade deals that may favor places where farming standards are low and imported supplies liable to disruption – all are impacting the farmers that produce our food and we urgently need policy to address this,” said Eliza Manningham-Buller, a retired British intelligence officer.


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