Hundreds of farmers have had their say on the future of agriculture post-Brexit at consultation meetings across the East of England.
Key issues under discussion included the future of trade deals, access to labour, and the shape of agricultural support payments outside of the Common Agricultural Policy. About 500 farmers attended 14 meetings organised by NFU East Anglia,
NFU Regional Director Robert Sheasby said: “We’re at the start of a crucial period for British agriculture, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for NFU members to help shape our future agricultural policy.
“The aim of these meetings was to set out the options we are facing as we prepare to exit the EU.
“Crucially, this wasn’t the NFU telling members what a new domestic agricultural policy should look like but a chance to discuss those options and to hear their views.
“Understandably, farmers had many different opinions on the best way forward but the overall mood at the meetings was a positive one. Whichever way people voted in June, we now have to get on and ensure a successful future for British agriculture for the benefit of farmers, consumers and the economy.”
The series of meetings finished with an event at the NFU Regional Office, Newmarket, chaired by NFU Vice President Guy Smith.
“It’s hugely important that the NFU and the farming industry see this as an opportunity. We must be on the front foot and up for the challenge,” he said.
Suffolk farmer John Pawsey, who chaired the NFU consultation meeting at Halesworth, said it was vital to hold early meetings to discuss future policy, even though Article 50 had yet to be triggered.
“These meetings are a fantastic example of where the NFU has been proactive and is empowering farmers with information about the choices we will face. As an industry we won’t be playing catch-up when crucial decisions about post-Brexit agricultural policy have to be made,” he said.
The NFU is arranging five larger member meetings in the region in September, to gain additional views, before NFU Council meets to agree its policy on 11 October. NFU Vice President Guy Smith will lead the discussions on Monday 12 September and NFU President Meurig Raymond will be speaking on Wednesday 14 September.