Britain’s decision to opt out of the European Union may heap more uncertainty on an industry already reeling from the affects of low farm gate prices, but farmers from both sides of the debate have spoken of the importance of coming together to create a brighter agricultural future.
This morning’s EU referendum result sparked immediate turbulence in the wider economy and led to warnings from some business figures that agriculture could be hit by falling land values.
Others have called for the speedy clarification on the future of EU farm subsidies.
The details of what a British farming policy will look like will take time to emerge but in the meantime there must be a positive response to the vote from the agricultural community, farmers told Country Week.
Dairy farmer Paul Tompkins, of South Acre Farm, Melbourne, near Pocklington, said: “It’s obvious negotiations will take a lot of time. My farm has just clawed it’s way through the most difficult economic crisis in a generation and we were just seeing signs of recovery. Milk prices had started to go upwards and the last thing my farm needs is a period of uncertainty.
“What is most important for me now, and farmers on both sides of the debate, is that now we all put our shoulder to that wheel and make sure those promises made prior to the referendum are kept and we do have a British agricultural policy that is fit for purpose.”
Emotions are mixed and sheep farmer and grass grower, Stephen Fell, sees the result as a good decision.
Mr Fell, managing director of specialist turf growers Lindum Turf near York, said: “It’s a good day for British agriculture.
“We produce the safest, best and most heavily assured food in the world and we can now get out and develop overseas markets without negotiating under the EU emblem. I was in China last year and it was very difficult to sell British produce because we have to go in as a community.
“I’m not saying it will be easy but it will be easier because we will be selling under ‘Brand UK’ and that makes a big difference.”
Rosey Dunn, who farms at Stockton on the Forest, North Yorkshire, said she was disappointed by the result but that the reaction from the industry, and from government, must be positive.
“As an industry we have to get our thoughts together and look to where we go looking forward,” she said.
“We have been suffering reduced prices and we don’t need anymore volatility. It is a worry when we rely, as a lamb producer, on 38 per cent of British lamb being exported, but we have to try and find the positives.”
DISMAY FOR WILDLIFE TRUST
Yorkshire Wildlife Trust rued the decision to leave the European Union.
In statement, the charity said: “Membership of the EU has improved the fortune of Yorkshire’s wildlife and wild places, through a strong raft of legislation, most notably the Habitats and Birds Directives.
“These directives have given a higher level of protection for some of our rarest wildlife, including bitterns, and some of our most vulnerable places.
“With a decision to leave, we urge the UK government to keep this strong environmental legislation that protects Yorkshire’s wildlife.”