Concerns about Defra’s preparedness for Brexit have been raised after the small print of the Chancellor’s Budget revealed the department would face further cuts over the next three years.
In 2008, Defra had £3.1 billion to spend, but since then, funding has been slashed repeatedly.
The department will receive £1.6 billion in the year 2017-18, but only £1.5 billion for the next two years to 2020.
With the UK leaving the EU in 2019, and a new Agriculture Bill on the way next year, Defra’s workload is set to increase massively.
NFU vice president Guy Smith said: “We have always said the workload on Defra as we repatriate policy from Brussels to Whitehall will increase exponentially, and we also know schemes like BPS and Countryside Stewardship have suffered in their delivery from lack of resource.
“It is absolutely imperative for Government to make sure Defra is fully resourced and braced for the extra challenges it will face going forward.
“It does look like an increasingly cash-strapped department, which must give huge concern.”
The Treasury has already allocated £700 million of extra funding for Brexit preparations, and the Chancellor announced an additional £3 billion for the same purpose at yesterday’s Budget, but figures on exactly how much Defra will receive on top of its core budget will not be released until spring next year.
A Treasury spokesman told Farmers Guardian: “We will work with other departments on allocating the funding, and Defra will obviously be one of those departments.”
On Radio 4’s Today Programme this morning, Chancellor Philip Hammond namechecked Defra as a department which was already benefitting from the new cash.
He said: “Defra will need to put in place a new IT system to manage movements of animals and foodstuffs between the EU and the UK to comply with international health and food standard regulations.
“We need to do this in a context where we do not actually know what the relationship with the EU will be, so we have to prepare for a range of outcomes.”
Last month, Defra Secretary Michael Gove told a House of Lords committee he was confident Defra would be properly resourced for the future.
He said: “There is a lot for our department to grapple with. Under my predecessors, the drive for greater efficiency led to a reduction in head count, but the quality of people in Defra is very high and we have augmented our numbers recently.
“The Treasury has also indicated we can draw down further resources in order to increase the range of expertise we have at our disposal and secure some of the very best people within the civil service and outside it in order to enable the department to do the work it has to do.”