Farming and rural organisations have reacted with disappointment to last weeks’ Budget, saying it does nothing for farming and the countryside, and in particular ignores the horticultural sector which is facing unprecedented rises in input costs and energy.
Ahead of the Budget announcement, NFU president Minette Batters wrote to the Chancellor urging him to prioritise food production. Speaking after the Budget, she said, “Ahead of the Budget, the NFU was clear that greater support is needed for the thousands of farm businesses which are trying, but struggling, to keep our nation fed amidst soaring production costs. It’s therefore extremely frustrating that the Energy and Trade Intensive Industries scheme was not extended to include energy intensive sectors such as horticulture and poultry.
“It begs the question – where does boosting Britain’s food security fit into the Treasury’s growth plans?”
Minette also called for an urgent review into the Energy and Trade Intensive Industries) scheme ETII, stating that it is “irresponsible that the ETII scheme completely overlooks food production, not to mention it being wholly at odds with the government’s own ambition to produce more home-grown fruit and vegetables.
“An urgent review into the ETII is needed to ensure that essential and vulnerable food producing sectors, such as protected horticulture and poultry production, do not face a cliff edge when the Energy Bill Relief Scheme ends later this month.”
The NFU also expressed disappointment that increased allowances for new plant or equipment are only available to limited companies. It is also disappointed that there is again no apparent recognition that businesses need to balance capital investment between equipment and physical infrastructure which is still written off over 33 years for tax purposes.
The NFU did say that it was pleased to see chancellor Jeremy Hunt announce an extension to the cut in the rates of fuel duty for a further 12 months.
Mark Tufnell, president of the CLA, commented, “After 12 years in charge, it is still difficult to see what – if any – ambition the Government has for the rural economy.” He said that rural businesses are being held back by apathy in public policy, not least in the planning system, and that, “The rural economy is 19 per cent less productive than the national average.”
Treasury also announced a call for evidence on the scope of Inheritance Tax Agricultural Property Relief, something that was welcomed by TFA chief executive George Dunn who said, “The TFA warmly welcomes the call for evidence on both these aspects of agricultural property relief. If tenant farmers are going to be able to take part in new public and private schemes for environmental enhancement, the tax status of the land they use for these schemes must be clarified.”