George Monbiot says farming subsidies are a transfer of cash to the rich.
The main subsidy, the single farm payment, is doled out by the hectare. The more land you own or rent, the more money you receive. . .
When our government says “we must help the farmers”, it means “we must help the 0.1%”. Most of the land here is owned by exceedingly wealthy people. Some of them are millionaires from elsewhere: sheikhs, oligarchs and mining magnates who own vast estates in this country. Although they might pay no taxes in the UK, they receive millions in farm subsidies. They are the world’s most successful benefit tourists. Yet, amid the manufactured terror of immigrants living off British welfare payments, we scarcely hear a word said against them. . .
Thanks in large part to subsidies, the value of farmland in the UK has tripled in 10 years: it has risen faster than almost any other speculative asset. . .
An uncapped subsidy system damages the interests of small farmers. It reinforces the economies of scale enjoyed by the biggest landlords, helping them to drive the small producers out of business. . .
He could have added that subsidies distort the usual rules of supply and demand, increase inefficiencies, limit choice and add costs for consumers, protect poor performers from their own folly and create unfair competition for non-subsidised produce.
Most New Zealand farmers were somewhat less than enthusiastic about being dragged into the real world by the Lange-Douglas government in the mid 1980s but I haven’t met a single one who would want to go back to subsidies.
It’s better to face the market and prosper, or not, as a result of your own efforts than be at the mercy of political and bureaucratic whim.
Hat tip: Tim Worstall