What does the public think of government support for farmers?

After Brexit, the way farmers receive government support will change. This change will have a massive impact on our environment, countryside and where our food comes from – so 38 Degrees members are getting involved. 78,000 of us have already submitted our thoughts to the government consultation on farming, food and the environment.

In September, 38 Degrees ran two pieces of research to understand more about where the public stands on the idea of public money for public goods. This is the idea that payments to farmers from the government should be linked to outcomes such as better air and water quality, improved soil health, higher animal welfare standards, public access to the countryside and measures to reduce flooding.

By incentivising farmers to protect the environment, this new system can help protect the countryside for generations to come.

Using generous donations from 38 Degrees members, the staff team ran:

  • A survey of 23,000 members of the public who are 38 Degrees members, including 500 farmers
  • A YouGov survey of 1,607 UK adults. The figures are weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

Here are the key findings:

The public supports the idea of public money for public goods, and they want public goods prioritised

  • Our YouGov poll showed that 66% of people including 63% of Conservative voters say that farmers who take measures to protect the environment, wildlife and nature should receive more government funding than those who do not
  • 91% of farmers and 95% of 38 Degrees members who responded to our survey agreed that “public money should mainly support farmers who protect the environment, wildlife and nature”

 

This means that the government should hold firm against special interests lobbying to dilute environmental priorities by adding food production to the list of public goods.

The government should take the opportunity to strengthen the Agriculture Bill by making it clear that public goods are a priority. It’s massively publicly popular to prioritise the environment when it comes to handing out government funding to farmers.

There is big public appetite for separate government help to make food and milk sales profitable for farmers.

  • Our YouGov survey found that 47% of the public support government intervention to increase the money British farmers receive when they sell produce in the UK. Only 10% oppose this. 49% of Conservative voters support it.
  • 85% of 38 Degrees members thought “the government should intervene to help make sure farmers get paid fairly for their food and milk.” Just 4% were opposed to the idea. Only 10% said I’m not sure. 
  • 82% of 38 Degrees members who are a farmer or are currently a farmer agreed that “the government should intervene to help make sure farmers get paid fairly for their food and milk.”

 

The government has made a good first step by proposing to give ministers powers to intervene in the supply chain to strengthen the position of farmers when they negotiate the price of food and milk. To live up to public expectation, they should go further and give ministers the duty, not just the ability, to make this intervention.

It’s important to remember that food security is impossible without protecting the environment: degrading our soil, pollinators (bees!), water and air all mean a much tougher environment in which to produce food.

But even if our UK food market works perfectly, it’ll all be thrown out of the window if we strike bad trade deals with other countries that allow cheap foreign-produce food made with lower standards to flood our market. It’d push some British farmers out of business.

You can see the YouGov results here:

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1I-sh5RGvRrzMaeBDeVSAnPm-Anzl2rJsVF9bsiMEtj8/edit?usp=sharing

You can see the results of our 38 Degrees member survey here:

https://speakout.38degrees.org.uk/surveys/1502/results/public

And finally, you can see the results of our 532 farmer respondents to the poll here:

Question People who used to be or are currently a farmer
Do you think public money should mainly support farmers who protect the environment, wildlife and nature? Yes: 90.78%
No: 6.76%
I’m not sure: 2.44%
Many farmers say it’s very difficult to sell the food and milk they produce at a fair price. Do you think the government should intervene to help make sure farmers get paid fairly for their food and milk? Yes: 82%
No: 7.7%
I’m not sure: 9.7%