Farmers must adapt but future trade deals are key, NFU vice president says

Stuart Roberts, the vice president of the National Farmers' Union.Stuart Roberts, the vice president of the National Farmers' Union.
Stuart Roberts, the vice president of the National Farmers' Union.
Farming will be 'very different' over the next decade and those that prosper will not be the wealthiest or largest enterprises but those that adapt fastest, the vice president of the National Farmers' Union, Stuart Roberts said.

The union itself will have to evolve in line with how the industry changes as new farm policy is implemented by government, he said, and one thing senior NFU officials are considering is how to better engage with the public.

Hertfordshire-based farmer Mr Roberts spoke to The Yorkshire Post on a visit to the region and urged farmers to respond to the Government’s consultation on its command paper which sets out its thinking about what future rules for farms will look like.

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The 64-page document sets out how total funding for the industry will be protected until the end of this parliament and that there will be a transition period after a two-year gap post-Brexit for farmers to prepare for new trading relationships and a new environmental land management system based on rewarding the delivery of ‘public goods’.

Mr Roberts believes the biggest uncertainty around what the new rules will be for farmers surrounds Britain’s future international trading relationships.

He said: “We don’t know what the trading environment we will be operating in in years to come, that will have a massive impact on the sheep sector for example. The type of deal we end up with will be hugely influential so I suppose for me, in times of uncertainty, it is not the biggest or the wealthiest that survive it’s those that are the fastest to adapt.

“The industry over the next five years, ten years, it will be very different. The union itself will have to respond to that. One of the things that the current officeholder team and I’m picking up more and more of, is how do we engage with... all those people that support British farming which is millions of people in the country that we have never probably had a good enough relationships with, because a lot of the things we are saying, they are saying the same and we need to get them to become advocates of the things we do.”

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Read more from Mr Roberts’ interview with The Yorkshire Post in tomorrow’s Country Week pages.