The “most significant” consultation ever undertaken with farmers has been launched by the National Farmers’ Union to establish what Britain’s agricultural policy should look like when the nation leaves the European Union.
Industry officials announced that they are now seeking farmers views from across the country after they used an extraordinary council meeting in London to agree key principles that will guide the union as it negotiates the terms of a domestic farming policy with government.
Overwhelmingly the feeling is that this represents an opportunity for the future of the industry.Adam Bedford, regional director for NFU North East.
At the end of today’s summit, which was attended by NFU representatives for Yorkshire, the union’s president Meurig Raymond said the Government must not ignore the economic importance of farming as it reacts to the Brexit vote.
He stressed that the sector is “the bedrock of the UK’s largest manufacturing industry”, food and drink, which is worth £108bn to the economy and employs 3.9m people.
Mr Raymond said: “NFU Council has today agreed the principles of a domestic farming policy which will now form the basis of the biggest farming consultation in England and Wales for a generation.
“Currently there are lots of uncertainties for farming - trade agreements, labour, financial support, legislation are all up in the air - but the NFU is committed to providing this industry with leadership.”
The organisation will consult its members across all farming sectors in every county, he said, to ensure they help shape the future of farming for generations to come.
He urged all NFU members to have their say over the coming months and encouraged non-members to join the NFU “to ensure their voice is heard”.
The union leader added: “We need a policy that ensures a profitable, productive and sustainable future for British farming. The NFU’s influence, with the backing of its membership, is paramount in this.”
Representatives from the NFU’s North East branch based in York were involved in the talks in the capital, including regional director Adam Bedford and county chairman Will Terry.
Mr Bedford told The Yorkshire Post: “Overwhelmingly the feeling is that this represents an opportunity for the future of the industry and today marks the beginning of a consultation across the farming sector to say what they want the industry to look like.
“We will be holding four county meetings which I would urge members to come to, to hear more about the process of leaving the EU.”
Mr Terry, who farms at Ravenscar near Scarborough, said these were “exciting times” for farming, adding: “It’s an opportunity for members to get behind the NFU to guarantee their futures in the industry. There are many different views from people in farming about what’s next - it’s about levelling that out so people are happy with what they get.”
NFU COUNCIL’S AGREED PRINCIPLES
To get the best possible access to markets in the rest of Europe;
Britain’s trade agreements with countries outside the EU are needed in the future;
Britain must avoid imports produced to lower standards;
A student agricultural workers scheme would help meet migrant labour needs;
Brexit is a chance to build an agri-policy which meets British needs, is easy to understand and simple to administer;
Support given to British farmers should match that given to EU farmers;
Policy must enhance British farming’s competitiveness;
Better agri-environmental schemes should be drawn up;
Ensure regulation is proportionate and based on sound science.