The National Farmers Union (NFU) has responded to the uncertainty of the UK’s agricultural sector post-Brexit by launching a consultation on the future of British farming and domestic farming policy.
At an extraordinary NFU Council meeting held at the end of June, the organisation’s president Meurig Raymond said the government had to recognise the economic importance of UK agriculture as the foundation of the UK’s largest manufacturing sector, food and drink, which is worth around £108 billion and employs 3.9 million people.
“NFU Council has today agreed the principles of a domestic farming policy which will now form the basis of the biggest farming consultation in England and Wales for a generation,” said Meurig Raymond.
“Currently there are lots of uncertainties for farming – trade agreements, labour, financial support, legislation are all up in the air – but the NFU is committed to providing this industry with leadership.
The NFU will now consult its members across the UK to ensure they have a say in shaping the future of farming.
Meurig Raymond added: “I urge all NFU members to get involved in this consultation over the coming months and that non-members should join the NFU to ensure their voice is heard.
“With this consultation, we can be sure that the policy we push for will have the backing of the farming sector at large.
“The contribution of this country’s farming and food industry to the economy and to food security should be taken extremely seriously by the UK government.
“We need a policy that ensures a profitable, productive and sustainable future for British farming. The NFU’s influence, with the backing of its membership, is paramount in this.”
As part of the council meeting the NFU laid out a set of agreed principles:
- Farmers must get the best possible access to European markets, as the UK remains a major trading partner for the EU.
- The UK must maintain more than 50 key trade agreements that allow goods to be traded worldwide as part of the negotiations, whether this means negotiating new deals or not.
- Farmers need clarity on what kind of access an independent UK would give to imports from the rest of the world. The NFU requires that the UK is not open to imports that are produced to lower standards.
- During the referendum the NFU reiterated the sector’s need for access to migrant labour, both seasonal and full-time, and must have clarity on future arrangements in this area, including the need for some kind of student agricultural workers scheme.
- Leaving the EU gives farmers the opportunity to build a new domestic agricultural policy which is adapted to British people’s needs, easy to understand and simple to administer.
- The NFU is calling for a rural development policy that focuses on enhancing competitiveness.
- Frustration with European regulation and its handling of product approvals must come to an end and British farmers should be given a golden opportunity to ensure arrangements are proportionate and based on sound science.