Much has been made of the reception that greeted Nigel Farage at the CLA Game Fair on Friday. The punters were far more interested in Nigel Farage than George Eustice, the incumbent Farming Minister, though perhaps things might have been different had Liz Truss turned up instead. When Farage referred to the much-loved Owen Paterson as ‘having been sacked and made a scapegoat for a failed EU policy [on flooding] which led to the flooding in Somerset’, cheers erupted from the tent.
Despite the rumpus that Farage’s presence created at the Game Fair, it’s still debatable whether Britain’s presence in the EU is a good thing for the countryside and rural communities. Ross Murray, Deputy President of the Country Land & Business Association, which sponsors the fair, argued that EU exports, which British farmers depend on, would be ‘cut to shreds’ if we left the EU, and we would be ‘completely at the mercy of the supermarkets’. Additionally, the money that farmers receive through the EU – both through direct payments and ‘investment in the wider rural economy’ – is something that we simply can’t afford to turn our backs on, he said.
Farage’s counter-argument is that in the long term, our farming industries will be better off if we can control them ourselves by being outside of the EU. In terms of trade, he claims that since we buy more from the EU than they buy from us, the links that are currently in place will continue unhindered. The party’s current agricultural plan involves a modified single farm payment scheme, which is capped at a certain level, but with no payments for land within 25 yards of a wind turbine or solar panel. Ross Murray claimed at the Game Fair that Ukip’s rural plans are ‘unrealistic and uncosted’; it’s up to Ukip to disprove that claim.