NFU President Minette Batters has said the coming year will be pivotal for UK farming. In a new year message, Batters said her focus will be ensuring that Government recognises the strategic importance of British food and farming and argued the industry must widen the national debate about the future of our food.
“In the NFU’s food report we raised important questions about what Britain needs for a thriving domestic food industry. I want 2019 to be the start of a national conversation with those who have an interest in home grown food –farmers and growers, processors, retailers, policy makers and the British people. We are being presented with a unique opportunity to shape our food policy and ensure our food security for generations to come and it’s a chance we must grab with both hands.
“Brexit is scheduled to officially take place in less than 90 days. And while the clock keeps ticking it’s still unclear as to what will actually happen and when and how that will impact on British food and farming.
“What we need is clarity as, after nearly two and a half years since the referendum took place, we are still no closer to finding out the details of our future relationship with the EU, what kind of trading environment we could be operating under in the future and where our future workforce will come from.
“We have outlined repeatedly that a no-deal Brexit means disruption and delays at borders, technical restrictions and the threat of import tariffs, to name but a few. It would be nothing short of catastrophic and could have a devastating impact on the millions of people working in our industry, threatening livelihoods and severely undermining farm businesses.
“Beyond March 29, if a deal is struck, farmers and growers will need stability as we make the transition from EU regulation to UK-based policy and regulation. This will be a critical period as we wait to see what our trading relationship with the EU looks like.
“Despite all the Brexit uncertainty, our job – and my focus – is to engage with MPs to ensure the new Agriculture Bill will deliver for British farmers and growers. It is vital that it establishes a framework that supports farmers as food producers and custodians of the countryside. Delivering a domestic farming policy that works for the whole industry is essential if we are to continue producing quality and affordable food for everyone.
“At the same time it is crucial that we continue to highlight the important role farming plays in protecting and enhancing the environment. Just a few weeks ago, the NFU held its first ever environment conference. This platform showcased the work of farmers protecting and enhancing the countryside as well as the work ahead to ensure we have a thriving natural landscape and productive ‘shop floor’.
“Despite the political upheaval, farmers have continued to show determined resilience. We have seen that in action over the past year where farmers continued to produce a plentiful supply of safe, traceable and affordable food for the nation, despite incredibly challenging weather conditions.
“As an industry, we are ready and able to tackle the challenges ahead as well as making the most of new opportunities. But we need everyone – producers, processors, politicians, retailers and the public – to back British farming like never before. It is my hope that in 2019 we will finally receive clarity on what the future looks like for farming – one which will allow farm businesses to do what they do best – provide food for the nation.”