Contingency measures to shield farmers from potentially imminent trade disruption must be part of the Chancellor’s 12-month fiscal plan that is due to be unveiled tomorrow, the industry’s union leader has warned.
Minette Batters, president of the National Farmers’ Union, said there was widespread worry among farmers that British agriculture could be put in “a critical economic situation” without specific government protections.
Fresh assurances are also needed on longer term financial support following the recent change in Conservative leadership, she said.
Ms Batters, who set out the NFU’s position in a letter to Sajid Javid as he prepared to announce details of his one-year spending review, said: “For farming to flourish post-Brexit, the Government needs to work in partnership with British farmers to invest in and build a productive, profitable and sustainable sector in the decades ahead.
“It is important that the Conservative Government has acknowledged the need to provide stability for farmers in its last manifesto and committed to deliver the same levels of farm support payments until the end of the current Parliament. But with a new Prime Minister and Cabinet, the NFU is calling for re-confirmation that this government also commits to maintain the domestic agricultural budget through to 2022.”
UK farmers currently receive £3.2bn in support as part of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy, which the Government has proposed will be replaced gradually by payments for “public goods” under an environmental land management scheme.
The NFU has repeatedly stated that farmers are up for the challenge of adapting to a new policy with the right support.
Long-term investment is also seen as crucial to ensuring the industry can achieve the NFU’s aspiration for British agriculture to become net zero in greenhouse gas emissions by 2040.
In the short-term though, Ms Batters said many farmers are “extremely worried” about the financial fall out if the UK leaves the EU without a trade deal.
Sending a warning to the Chancellor, Ms Batters said: “It is absolutely critical that the spending review includes a range of contingency measures to avert the worst impacts a no-deal Brexit will have on farm businesses.
“This includes reviewing the no-deal import tariffs to provide greater safeguards to UK primary production, supporting exporters into the EU by ensuring that the necessary certifications are in place, and compensating farmers for the loss of income due to market disruption.”
As reported in The Yorkshire Post on Saturday, the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) has expressed concern that farming and countryside communities risk being written off as “collateral damage” in Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s negotiations with Brussels.
Meanwhile, the Tenant Farmers Association has said it is “disappointed” over a lack of a response to a letter sent jointly with the CLA to the Prime Minister which set out the “minimum necessary requirements” for Brexit preparations and policies to support the agricultural industry.
Ahead of the Chancellor’s announcement tomorrow, Ms Batters warned: “In the current economic climate the importance of the British food and farming industry must not be overlooked.”