Farmers are much better protected inside the EU than they would be if we were to leave. Annually the UK receives more than £3bn from the EU in CAP subsidies. In 2012, 68% of the UK’s total farming income was attributed to CAP, compared to 39% in the late 1980s.
Many South West farmers are substantially dependent on European support to survive and there is no guarantee that this support would continue outside the EU, particularly under a government that favours free markets. The SW is characterised by small farms that would really struggle outside the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy): it is estimated that without subsidies only 10% of UK farms could survive and these are the larger farms.
The more disadvantaged the area in which one farms, the more likely that support payments are a significant factor determining the profitability or survivability for the majority of farms. Those disadvantaged areas are the ones which most of us treasure the most in terms of tourism and amenity value.
Farmers are better protected by our continued membership because EU policy is set in cooperation with countries where politicians pay much more regard to the agricultural community than UK politicians do.
Leaving the EU would also risk farmers losing access to export markets in other European countries. Competition for food crops is fierce and farming lobbies in other countries would fight hard to impose tariffs on our farmers seeking to export, making their products relatively more expensive and reducing demand.
Of course, many other jobs in rural areas are dependent on having a flourishing farming sector. Overall, the agri-food sector contributes £97.1bn to the UK economy each year, and supports the jobs of more than 3.6 million people.
The South West receives around £729.3 million of public investment of EU money every year, particularly Cornwall, which qualifies for European Structural and Investment Fund money as a former industrial area with a GDP at less than 75% of the EU average. This round of funding for Cornwall is worth €603,706,863. In a time of national austerity when Westminster governments are slashing budgets it is highly unlikely this would be replaced with national funding if we were to leave the EU