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NIESR General Election Briefing: ‘Agriculture in the UK’

Although agriculture makes up only 0.7% of GDP and employs 1.2% of the UK labour force, farmers maintain approximately 70% of the UK land area and many currently rely heavily on the Common Agricultural Policy for survival, a new briefing by researchers from the University of Kent for the National Institute recently highlighted. 

The briefing also outlines that:

  • Through their integration into the food chain, farmers contribute 60% of domestic food supplies.
  • Agriculture is the main supplier to the food and drinks industry which makes up 20% of the UK manufacturing sector.
  • 20% of agricultural labour force are immigrants, many who are seasonal workers.
  • Only 3% of farmers are under the age of 35 and 30% are 65 or older.
  • Many farmers depend on subsidies to ensure they can continue farming. For some up to 50% of all the money they receive is in subsidies, with small farmers particularly vulnerable.
  • Farming contributes 10% to UK Green House gas emissions and has significant negative impact on water quality.
  • Agriculture has impacts beyond the farm gate and effect non-farm rural employment.

One of the briefing’s co-authors, Alastair Bailey, wrote: “While it is true that the EU CAP payment represent a very large budgetary cost and that a large share of that are received by a small number of more wealthy farmers, there are many farmers, particularly in the parts of the territory where farming is hard, who rely heavily on the CAP for survival. Since Brexit will result in the removal of CAP in its current form, the UK has the opportunity to design a replacement subsidy programme which targets need and helps to boost the rural and urban economic linkages.”

Notes for editors:

The full briefing, “Agriculture in the UK” is available on NIESR’s special General Election page.

Authors Alastair Bailey, Sophia Davidova, Ulrike Hotopp, all from the School of Economics, University of Kent, were invited by NIESR to collaborate to its General Election Briefing series. The series was made possible thanks to funding by the Nuffield Foundation to ensure public debate in the run-up to the General Election is informed by independent and rigorous evidence.

For more information or to arrange an interview with the authors of this briefing please contact NIESR Press Office: Paola Buonadonna on 020 7654 1923 /  / 

NIESR aims to promote, through quantitative and qualitative research, a deeper understanding of the interaction of economic and social forces that affect people's lives, and the ways in which policies can improve them.

Further details of NIESR’s activities can be seen on  or by contacting . Switchboard Telephone Number: +44 (0) 207 222 7665


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