Farming and fishing
Labour’s local action plan for Farming and Fishing:
* Labour recognises and values the contribution that agriculture and fishing make to the local economy, and also to the wider community, and will act to defend and support these industries.
* Farmers and fishermen will be at the centre of a green transformation focused on producing and marketing good local food in a sustainable way…
* … and on developing their role as stewards and protectors of the natural environment.
* Initiatives such as co-operatives to market local produce could bring the producers closer to local buyers, and to each other.
* For small business owners, in fishing, farming and other complementary ventures, there will be benefits from Labour’s policies boosting coastal and rural communities with better infrastructure and communications.
* Local fishermen and farmers must be listened to, and their knowledge and experience has to guide and inform policy-making.
Our full report is below:
Farming and fishing in Scarborough and Whitby
How important are farming and fishing to the local economy?
The latest available figures (2011) show 1,050 people working in agriculture, forestry and fishing. This is 2.2% of Scarborough and Whitby’s working population of 48,359. (Source: Census)
But these industries have a greater significance to local life than the numbers might suggest. As producers of food, keepers of the natural environment, and providers of services, the work of farmers and fishermen is vital to the local economy. They also play a key role in making the area so attractive to visitors, supporting the important (and growing) local tourism industry. Farming and fishing represent a long and proud tradition of sea-faring and working the land, a tradition which has shaped all our towns and villages.
For local communities within the national park, the success of agriculture, forestry and fishing is especially vital. Here, they account for almost half of the small businesses which underpin village economies. Around 9% of NYMNP residents were employed in agriculture in 2011. (Report on Economy of NYMNP (2015), pp. 2, 9.)
The local farming industry has been under growing financial pressure for many years, with a steady decline in the numbers employed (SBC Local Plan, section 7.4, p. 88). This matches the regional picture: Yorkshire and Humber saw a decrease of 11% in total income from farming during 2013-2017. Meanwhile, farming income in England as a whole rose by 3% (Defra).
The most recent statistics are regional, and show Farm Business Income (£ per farm) in 2017.
All types of farming: £50,100 (Yorkshire & Humber); £56,500 (England)
Cereals: £57,000 (Y&H); £64,200 (E)
Grazing Livestock: £19,300 (Y&H); £24,200 (E)
The region has 2.2m of England’s 15.7m sheep (Defra, 2017 figure).
The value of agricultural output (for the whole NYM national park area) was estimated in 2009 at £56 million. Dairy accounted for around a quarter of this, crops another quarter. Agriculture sustained about 2,500 jobs, more than half of them part-time. Even then, a decade ago, there had been a worrying decline in job numbers, particularly full-time ones, over the previous 20 years. Agriculture in the national park in 2009 relied heavily on payments made through the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), then amounting to £16m a year. (Report on Economy of NYMNP (2015), p. 30)
Hill-farming continues to struggle. The regional income levels for grazing livestock (above) show this quite starkly, when contrasted with other types of farming. It was reported in 2015 that this sector was ‘under severe financial pressure with average profits of less than £20,000 per year, despite receiving average payment of over £47,000 per year from the public sector.’ Yet hill farms remain ‘of fundamental importance to the economy of the area’. (Yorkshire Dales and Moors Farm Innovation Project (2015), p. 1)
At the time of writing (Oct. 2019) the UK’s future relationship with the EU is still far from clear. The National Farmers’ Union has identified numerous difficulties likely to affect all their members in case of withdrawal from the EU (including organic branding not being recognized, additional paperwork required for export of animal products, and packaging and haulage problems). The present uncertainty – including when exactly in the year any new arrangements might hit – causes a particular dilemma for sheep farmers. The NFU predicts that in the event of No Deal, EU tariffs of about 46% would apply to lamb (meat) and live animals, in which case ‘this trade would not be financially viable’. This would mean far more lamb coming to the domestic market than can be consumed, with the effect of depressing the UK farm-gate price of lamb. If withdrawal had happened in March, the NFU estimates the fall would have been about 30%. If in October, when an additional 800,000 lambs are on the market, an even steeper drop in sheep-farmers’ income would be expected. (NFU Briefing)
So while No Deal will be difficult for all farmers, the implications for sheep farmers in Scarborough and Whitby could be especially serious.
The Fisheries Bill is still proceeding through parliament, and Brexit not resolved. Meanwhile, there are concerns about the future of small boats – despite making up most of the British fishing fleet, smaller boats have just 6% of the total quota. Fishing quotas are a particular focus for anger, and many in the fishing industry feel their views are being ignored. There is also doubt that any deal on a 12-mile zone can be enforced.
Labour’s shadow environment and fisheries ministers carried out a wide-ranging consultation from 2017, including meeting the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations.
Luke Pollard, shadow fisheries minister, set out Labour’s position in brief:
- By ignoring the needs of smaller fishing fleets, this Government is betraying British fishing.
- The Government could act to redistribute fishing quota now, but are failing by not delivering quota re-allocation in the Fisheries Bill.
- Labour is setting out our vision for Britain to have the most sustainable fisheries in the world. That means a greater focus on ensuring fish stocks are healthy, that there is proper enforcement and a fairer distribution of fishing quota.
- Labour will ensure that fishing quota is not monopolised by the few. Fishing reform could usher in a huge regeneration of coastal towns but not unless ministers drastically improve the Fisheries Bill.
At present, nearly a third (29%) of the UK’s fishing quota is owned or controlled by just five families on the Sunday Times Rich List. One Dutch-owned trawler, the Cornelis Vrolijk, controls more than a fifth of England’s entire quota allocation, and about two-thirds of the UK’s quota is awarded to three multi-national companies.
There are positives to build on, especially if No Deal can be avoided. Over the years, many local farmers have diversified into other businesses alongside their agricultural work. They run camp-sites, driving schools, computer services, mini-buses, cafés, farm shops, and many other successful small ventures. The social care farm movement is a promising development. Improving the rural infrastructure – better broadband and phone signals, transport links and public services – will be a tremendous help to all rural enterprises, as well as to residents and visitors.
There is potential for agriculture and fishing to develop a larger market in ‘locally branded’ food and providing ‘ecosystem’ services. The NYMNP Authority has spoken of its aspirations to increase the number of moorland sheep, possibly by 6,000; to increase other agricultural output and profitability through new techniques and technologies; and to find a larger role for farmers in environmental stewardship. (Report on the Economy of NYMNP, pp. 30, 43; Yorkshire Dales and Moors Farm Innovation Project, p. 2)
The urgent issues affecting the local fishing industry are rather different, but there is much in common with farming. For both industries, sustainable solutions for the longer term must be found.
Labour’s Green Transformation 2018
The Labour Party set out these policies on farming and fisheries in September 2018:
- Reconfigure funds for farming and fishing to support sustainable practices, smaller traders, local economies and community benefits.
- Establish a science innovation fund to promote the most sustainable forms of farming and fishing, with support earmarked for our small-scale fishing fleet.
- Review the allocation of UK fishing quota to promote the most sustainable fishing practices, in a way that benefits coastal communities and the small-scale fishing fleet.
- Protect habitats and species in the ‘blue belts’ of the seas and oceans surrounding the United Kingdom and its overseas territories and consult on the creation of National Marine Parks around the UK.
While Labour’s approach has been well-received, and the focus on environmental protection and enhancement is popular, the current predicament of many local farmers and fishermen has to be first priority. The fall-out from Brexit creates many dangers. “There are risks that farmers will go bust before they can go green”, as one newspaper put it.
PLP Briefing, ‘Fisheries Bill’, 21 November 2018
NFU Briefing: ‘Implications for the farming sector of moving a “no-deal” Brexit from 29th March to 31st October 2019’ (June 2019)
Scarborough BC Local Plan (2017)
GC 4 Oct 2019