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  1. ITV Report

The fate of farming in the hands of the EU referendum

Photo: ITV Border

Agriculture is one of the biggest industries in Cumbria and the south of Scotland - employing more than 10,000 people.

73%
of Britain's food exports from agriculture go to EU countries.
£2.5bn
Between £2.5bn and £3bn in EU subsidies is given to British farmers.

More than 50% of all farm incomes in Britain, come from these EU subsidies.

Those who want to stay in the EU argue that all the subsidies could be lost if we leave. But Leave campaigners say if we weren't paying for EU membership, there'd be plenty of money left over to help farmers in need.

The NFU and its counterpart in Scotland have now also decided that members would be better off remaining in the EU.

Credit: ITV Border

Robert Craig, a former chairman of the NFU in Cumbria, says after wavering he's now decided to vote to remain in the EU:

I feel from the indication we're getting from DEFRA that we're not prepared to be in. It seems there isn't a real contingency being even looked at so far as government is concerned.

I do feel very strongly that without support certainly the upland farms in the north of England and Cumbria especially would find it incredibly difficult to remain economically sustainable without any sort of support, be that from the European government or our own government. So it's a fairly major thing for this part of the world that we remain in."

– Robert Craig, former Chairman of NFU in Cumbria
Credit: ITV Border

Ed Studholme, at Great Orton near Carlisle, is convinced that leaving the EU would be best for farmers:

As any small business we find that bureaucracy is increasing, whether that's from government in Westminster or government in Europe. I think more fundamentally for me we need less government, not more.

It's an extra layer of government and rules and bureaucracy that we just don't need."

– Ed Studholme, Great Orton

For all farmers, and those in the wider agricultural industry, the stakes are potentially very high and the outcome could affect their businesses for decades to come.