Since the introduction of EU farming subsidies, that greatly help smaller producers like me out, there have been an increasing amount of rich investors buying up large swathes of farm land allowing them to benefit from huge breaks at the tax payers expense.
The rich and powerful benefiting from rules and regulations ushered in by their bosom buddies – I know this isn’t exactly news, but in taking this corruption for granted have we let the fat cats take one step too far?
Is it too late to fight back against the High Society power house?
Have you heard of a farmer called Frank Smart? If you’re a large-scale industrial farmer, with thousands of acres in your possession – chances are you would have heard of him at some point.
Back in 2013, writer and researcher Andy Wightman, in the course of adding to his data information site whooownsscotland.org.uk, discovered that Mr. Smart was in the possession of over 80,000 acres of land – making him one of the largest private owners of land in the UK.
Thanks to his expedient purchasing of unusable land, that could not be farmed, he was able to buy ‘entitlements’ to farm subsidies, claiming back £5 for every acre of land. This crafty method of ‘slipper farming’ allowed him to rake in £3,226,492 from the Scottish Government, which lead to the profits of his company exceeding half a million pounds by the end of September 2012.
That such an underhanded technique should be utilised by someone in great power is not so much a surprise. After all, those with the biggest resources naturally have access to the best legal and financial aid available, allowing them to make the most prudent, albeit morally questionable, decisions.
Would it surprise you then, to discover that the practice of ‘slipper farming’, despite being outed years ago, is still being practiced – and by leading members of our society?
In 2016 the Taxpayers’ Alliance released a statement: “Farmers should be put on notice. Taxpayers shouldn’t be handing out what are effectively land subsidies, often to extremely wealthy individuals.”
The target of this flagrant statement? Members of Her Royal Majesty’s Parliament.
MP for South Dorset, Richard Drax, having already created headlines in 2014 for claiming the second most amount of expenses amongst all MPs, was amongst the top 100 recipients of EU farming subsidies. The farm which he jointly-owns received over £350,000, it was recently revealed.
Drax wasn’t the only MP benefiting from these sizeable breaks.
Iain Duncan Smith, not content with taking money out of the hands of the poorest in our country, has cashed in consistently over the last ten years. His primary residence, a farm on his wife’s estate, has brought in over £1,300,000 in subsidies over the course of a decade.
With the countdown to Brexit now officially underway, we’ll no doubt be seeing a last-minute rush of overseas and domestic investors piling in the requests for their subsidies. However, with recent news that E.U. Law will not be rolled back when we leave, it wouldn’t be too much of a surprise to see this loop hole remain – as long as it continues to benefit those in power.
For more information and guidance on this issue, take a look at the resources below:
Government Guidelines on Receiving Grants & Payments
The BBC’s coverage of the Recent Recipients of Aforementioned Subsidies
George Monbiot’s damning 2013 piece for The Guardian
Reuter’s 2013 article on the EU’s stance on increased payments
Researcher Andy Wightman’s Blog filled with great exposes and info