The Government has announced the launch of a review which will look at how to deliver ‘fair funding’ to farmers across all four UK nations after Brexit.
An independent advisory panel, led by Lord Bew of Donegore, will work out which environmental, agricultural and socio-economic factors should determine the distribution of farm funding between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Farm numbers and sizes will also be taken into account.
The review comes in the wake of a long-running Holyrood-Westminster row over convergence cash, which started because the UK Government handed out £160 million returned by the EU to all the home nations, despite the fact it was only given back because of low Scottish farm payments.
Lord Bew will provide recommendations on how to split the convergence funding until the UK leaves the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), but he will not revisit earlier allocations or redistribute money which has already been committed.
Defra Secretary Michael Gove said: “This important review, led by Lord Bew, will explore how we can deliver funding for farmers that supports the individual needs of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
“We are committed to making sure that future funding is fairly allocated, and are also confirming the Government will not simply apply the Barnett formula to Defra’s funding beyond this parliament.”
But Scottish Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing wrote in last week’s edition of Farmers Guardian that Mr Gove had ‘moved the goalposts’ after agreeing earlier this year to hold a review which would look at historic convergence allocations.
He said: “It is extremely disappointing, and unacceptable to say the least, that nearly a year on, not only has the review still not begun, the UK Government is finding new ways to delay, prevaricate and hope I drop the issue.”
Mr Gove’s promise not to apply the Barnett formula to agricultural funding follows an earlier hint to avoid Barnett-isation in May this year.
The formula is used by the UK Government to funnel cash to the devolved regions according to population size, but farming groups in Scotland and Wales had made clear this would be unacceptable because it would mean both nations having their budgets slashed by almost half.