Immigration policy must urgently address essential food and farming needs

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The Migration Advisory Committee’s (MAC) recommendations to reduce the salary threshold does not go far enough and urgent clarity is needed as to whether the government will heed these recommendations in its forthcoming immigration policy, the NFU has said.

The call comes after the MAC offered recommendations on both a new points based system and salary thresholds, which would take effect at the end of the Brexit transition period, on December 31 2020.

With the UK food and farming sector currently contributing more than £120 billion to the nation’s economy, the NFU also says more detail is needed on how the government plans to address farming’s labour needs that fall outside the higher skills categories. This includes a commitment from the government to expand the Seasonal Workers Scheme to the full 70,000 by 2021 which is needed by the horticulture sector.

Read the MAC report in full here. 

Minette Batters_71934

NFU President Minette Batters said: “British farming plays a critical role in the nation’s health and well-being, putting traceable, nutritious, affordable food on plates. And we are ambitious for the future and for what farming can contribute to the current global challenge of climate change with plans to achieve net zero by 2040.

“While the proposed reduction in the current salary threshold from £30K to £25,600 is a step in the right direction, this needs to go further to match the current skills threshold.

“And if British agriculture is to continue delivering for the nation’s public after we leave the EU, it is essential we maintain access to a workforce with the skills needed across both permanent and seasonal roles, and urgent action is needed to ensure continuity of labour supply, as the MAC report recognises."

“When it comes to a safe and secure supply of home-grown food and plants, farming needs a wide variety of skills from packers and meat processors to vets and herdsmen. I firmly believe British agricultural and horticultural production – whether that is care for crops, harvesting and packing, or world-leading animal health and welfare – is too valuable to be restricted by an immigration policy that fails to recognise its wide and varying needs.

“We want to understand how the government will respond to the MAC recommendations and hope to see essential changes for this vital sector as soon as possible to give farmers and growers chance to plan and prepare their business.”

In its 2019 Manifesto, Back British Farming: Brexit and beyond, the NFU asked for guaranteed access to a skilled and competent workforce: 

We are calling on the next government to maintain access to the seasonal and permanent workforce required by the UK food chain. We would like to see an immediate expansion of the Seasonal Workers Pilot scheme to enable recruitment this winter and rapid action to reach a full scheme of 70,000 seasonal workers as soon as practically possible.

In terms of permanent labour, we would like to work with the next government to ensure any future immigration system facilitates farming’s access to the labour market in the future. 

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