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Nearly three-quarters of the general public believe farmers should continue to be funded by the tax payer once the UK leaves the EU, according to an opinion poll conducted for Bayer.

Just over 2000 UK adults were asked in early October by independent market research agency Populus whether taxpayers should continue to fund UK farmers to grow food and/or look after the environment once it leaves the EU, with 74% suggesting funding should continue.

“This is perhaps surprisingly positive backing for UK farmers retaining funding, given the rhetoric about Brexit and the referendum,” said Dr Julian Little, Bayer’s Head of Communications and Government Affairs for Crop Science. “But only 9% of those polled suggested there were more important things to be spending tax payers’ money on. It should give confidence for the farming industry to make strong representations to government for a support payment system post-2020.”

The public were also asked whether food production or looking after the environment, or both, should be the focus for the funding. “It was encouraging to see that both were considered important by the majority of those who suggested funding should continue (41%), but there was also strong support for food production as the focus compared to looking after the environment (22% versus 11%).

“Clearly the general public is concerned about food security in the wake of Brexit, and how we will feed a growing world population in the future, using fewer resources and with less available land,” said Dr Little.

Those answers mirrored other questions in the survey, which suggested that the overwhelming number of respondents thought it was important that the UK produced its own food (96%), and that farmers were important to the UK economy and way of life (95%).

“This survey shows the high regard farmers are held within this country, and the importance the public attaches to what they do. Agriculture must have a strong voice in the upcoming Brexit negotiations,” Dr Little said, “and we are keen to play our part.”