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NFU launches biggest farming conversation for a generation

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The NFU will launch the sector's most significant conversation on the impact of Brexit and what a future domestic farming policy should look like.

At an extraordinary Council meeting, NFU President Meurig Raymond said the government must not ignore the economic importance of the farming sector. It’s the bedrock of the UK’s largest manufacturing industry - food and drink - which is worth £108billion and employs 3.9million 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 – trade agreements, labour, financial support and legislation are all up in the air – but the NFU is committed to providing this industry with leadership.

"We will consult our members, in every sector, in every county, to ensure that they have a say in shaping the future of farming for them, their children and their grandchildren.

"I urge all NFU members to get involved in this conversation over the coming months and that non-members should join the NFU to ensure their voice is heard. With this consultation, we can be sure that the policy we push for will have the backing of the farming sector at large."

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“The contribution of this country’s farming and food industry to the economy and to food security should be taken extremely seriously by the UK government. 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.”
 

The agreed principles from NFU Council are:


  • We must get the best possible access to markets in the rest of Europe. Although we will not be a member of the EU, it will still be our major trading partner for the foreseeable future.
  • Currently we benefit from more than 50 trade agreements with countries in the rest of the world. We will continue to need these kind of arrangements in future, whether this means negotiating new deals or not.
  • A key question we had to the Leave camp, and on which we never received a clear answer, was what kind of access would an independent UK give to imports from the rest of the world? Our requirement is that we are not open to imports which are produced to lower standards.
  • During the Referendum we have repeatedly drawn attention to our sector’s need for access to migrant labour, both seasonal and full-time. Outside the EU we will need visa-restricted access to labour from anywhere in the world.
  • Leaving the EU gives us the opportunity to build a new domestic agricultural policy which is adapted to our needs, easy to understand and simple to administer. We will be looking for guarantees that the support given to our farmers is on a par with that given to farmers in the EU, who will still be our principal competitors.
  • We will want to see a rural development policy which focuses on enhancing our competitiveness. Britain has been a pioneer in agri-environmental schemes, but these are currently running out of steam- in part because of over prescriptive EU rules. We must take this opportunity to devise better schemes.
  • If there was one message which came over loud and clear in all our farmer meetings it was frustration with European regulation and its handling of product approvals, due to an over-politicised approach and excessive use of the precautionary principle. We now have a golden opportunity to ensure our arrangements are in future proportionate and based on sound science.


Have your say on this

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  • Posted by: Tom Allen-StevensPosted on: 01/07/2016 21:57:58

    Comment: Fair and equitable trade agreements with EU countries and with other trading partners must be the priority, but we should accept the trade-off that it will mean we have to continue to accept European regulation, even though we're now in no position to influence it.
    To expect a UK government to continue to pay area payments would be grossly naive, but we should request they're phased out gradually. There should also be a competitive scheme that allows farmers who can demonstrate to the taxpayer value for money access to funds to continue to provide the public services we do at present.
    Most of all, the NFU and farmers in general must seize the agenda - farming policy should not be decided by politicians and Whitehall bureaucrats who have no understanding of our countryside and our industry. There is a blank sheet of paper - we should word the policy that fills it.
  • Posted by: Tim ElmhirstPosted on: 02/07/2016 11:05:22

    Comment: I don't want to be a doom monger but i have a rather pessimistic outlook for forthcoming negotiations.
    I agree that we may be able to cut back on some of the EU regulatory rules, which we were in my opinion rather too zealous in implementing.
    However if any member thinks that the UK government will protect UK agriculture against cheap imports you have another think coming.
    You only have to look at Steel and Coal.
    The Government's stand on any subsidy to any industry.
    I think we will miss the French who knew how and had the enough clout to be able to affect Government and EU policy.
    Yours, a Farmer with his fingers firmly crossed
  • Posted by: Jim MacaulayPosted on: 04/07/2016 11:19:06

    Comment: I'm sure that the policy advisors are fully aware of the scale of the task facing the civil service who will have to unpick EU legislation to form a legally defendable GB agricultural policy. I doubt that the civil service have to expertise or capability to achieve this on their own. The Treasury team, who will want to hold a firm hand over our sector, need to be outmanouvered.
    Have you considered the possibility of creating a team with legal and commercial expertise to represent our GB agricultural interests when negotiating with our own government? This could, perhaps should, include all the agricultural supply industries thus covering regulations across the agricultural sector for pesticides, fertilisers, animal health & welfare, research etc.
    If we hire in the best available expertise it might cost us a little more but could prove to be well worth it in the long run. If the expertise across all aspects of the agricultural industry including its supply industries is sufficient, it could become the respected authority and point of reference for the UK government. There are insufficient lawyers who have a wide understanding of legislation of trade; our sector must ensure that we have the best expertise to defend our interests.
  • Posted by: Oliver DowdingPosted on: 05/07/2016 07:17:29

    Comment: Surely if we are planning to continue trading with our European partners we have no choice but to adhere to the same regulations as them? They would presumably have the same opinion about us supplying product into their markets which don't adhere to their standards as we do in reverse?
    The NFU's "agreed principles" assume the government will sign Article 50. They assume there are no black holes in government coffers and that Government can and will afford similar "subsidies" as at present. Suppose there is a different government in place. We need a policy that sees us through the next 20+ years, not just up to 2020.
    I suggest this gives us as a country a great opportunity to reassess what food the population needs, based on a full reassessment of production methodology, consumption, waste, diet, NHS demands and much more. We shouldn't be basing future policy on past rhetoric and trends. We could have a much more consumer friendly, farmer friendly and environment friendly policy if we just stepped outside of the narrow blinkers we often wear. I wouldn't pretend for a moment that this won't be painful for many of us in the short term, but the long-term benefits including those of the next generation are enormous. Are we, the farmers, brave enough to grab this as an opportunity rather than just see it as a threat?
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