Farming leader holds '˜robust' talks with Minister

Agriculture's key priorities for post-Brexit Britain have been set out in face to face talks held between the country's farming union leader and the Environment Secretary.

The NFU has held face-to-face talks with Minister Andrea Leadsom. Picture: James Hardisty

Meurig Raymond described the talks with Andrea Leadsom as “constructive and robust” in which he explained the need for unfettered access to the EU market free of tariffs and non-tariff barriers for agricultural commodities.

The National Farmers’ Union president (NFU) urged government to place equal priority on food and farming as well as other economic sectors during Brexit trade negotiations.

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After the meeting, the Pembrokeshire farmer said: “We set out firmly that high standards of UK farm production must not be sacrificed in a free trade deal and I was pleased to hear that Mrs Leadsom agreed with us on that. British food cannot withstand a market flooded with imports produced to lower standards – there was universal understanding of this in the meeting.

“We welcomed her initiative to explore new markets outside the EU such as China where she has held talks recently but stressed that retaining key export markets for agricultural commodities, such as those to the EU, is vital for many UK farming sectors.”

The union leader also told the Minister why faming needs non-UK seasonal labour, saying: “We discussed with Mrs Leadsom possible solutions, including the urgent need for a substantial trial of a visa-controlled Seasonal Agricultural Permit Scheme. And due to confusion caused by Brexit, we called for the Government to reassure all EU citizens already working here of their right to remain in the UK.”

Mr Raymond said he took the opportunity to discuss Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) delivery.

He said: “We’re acutely aware that the Rural Payments Agency is already warning BPS claimants, such as those on commons or cross-border holdings, to plan for a later payment. It is not acceptable that these same farms could be paid late in the payment window for the second year running.”

The NFU also wrote to the Prime Minister this last week to urge her to realise the opportunities of Brexit for UK farming.