University report predicts ‘economic shock’ for South West rural economy

New research conducted at the Countryside and Community Research Institute (CCRI) identifies £883 million is predicted to be lost from the rural economy up to 2027 across the South West.

Farmers and other land managers are coming to terms with the move away from Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) support, but the transition is proving difficult, and the replacement Sustainable Farming Initiative (SFI) has had an uncertain start in the region.

The report, was undertaken by CCRI who are based at the University of Gloucestershire with support from the National Innovation Centre for Rural Enterprise (NICRE), is entitled ‘Assessing the impact of Agricultural Transition in Cornwall & the Isles of Scilly, Devon, Dorset and Somerset’.

The CCRI study was funded by the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly LEP, Dorset LEP, National Farmers Union (NFU) and Heart of the South West LEP to shed light on the impact new payment schemes will have on the farming and rural community across the South West.

The report indicates that with up to £440 million less to spend on materials and services, there will be a significant knock-on for South West jobs and businesses.

The region’s rural economy, which is dependent on small, family-run farms, is particularly vulnerable to the financial impact of the transition. With farming being a significant driver for the region’s economy, the predicted impact on the sector’s supply chains, producers, suppliers, business owners and workers is widespread.

Chris Short, Associate Professor in Environmental Governance at the CCRI, co-investigator at NICRE and lead researcher on the report, said: “The impact of the transition on the South West’s agricultural sector and wider rural economy should not be underestimated.

“Many farms in this region are typically small, family businesses, particularly vulnerable to a loss of support. This funding is disappearing, just as living and business costs are rising sharply across the country.

“Any reduction in spending at farm level will have a direct impact on the wider rural economy. The impact of these changes will also be felt far beyond the farm gate.”

The publication of the report has generated significant media interest, with Chris Short appearing on BBC Radio Somerset and Farming Today on BBC Radio 4 to discuss the report’s findings. More recently the Financial Times has featured the report and included further commentary from the Heart of the SW LEP chair and other key figures in the region’s farming sector. The article, entitled ‘English farmers count the cost of changes to subsidy regime’ can be read here.