Farmers will vote blind on Brexit unless there is a firm commitment from government on what its agricultural strategy will be, whatever the outcome of the June 23 referendum.
The National Sheep Association wants the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to ‘Brexit-proof’ its forthcoming 25-year Food and Farming Plan.
Phil Stocker, the Association’s chief executive, said: “Increasingly, I am talking to sheep farmers who are somewhat attracted to leaving, remembering that the UK joined a common market and not a ‘super state’. However, the politicians running the ‘out’ campaign can only give a personal opinion of what they might like to see in terms of investment and support for farming and food, not solid commitments.”
Defra is currently working on its long-term Food and Farming Plan, which the NSA believes should include a commitment to support and nurture agriculture; with a clear reference to Britain’s future in and out of the EU.
Mr Stocker said he would like to see “clear and committed plans and intentions” for both possible vote outcomes.
He added: “Evidence over the last decade or more suggests the Treasury would reduce funding for agriculture, even if there was an overall saving made by exiting the EU. Therefore the absence of any guarantee to maintain support, in particular to upland farms in marginal situations, means Brexit is of real concern to many NSA members.”
As it stands, farmers face making an “uniformed” choice at the polls, Mr Stocker said, adding: “This is incredibly disappointing given the significance of the vote on the sheep sector and agriculture in general.”