Farmers are being urged to make their voices heard to government, as the conditions of Brexit are thrashed out in the coming year.
In his new year message, NFU president Meurig Raymond said 2016 had been a tumultuous year for farming, but argued the coming year presented an important opportunity for farmers to make themselves heard.
“The historic EU Referendum looks likely to be a game-changer for many as over 40 years of European policy is replaced by farm policy controlled at a UK level,” said Raymond. “While the theme of 2016 has been one of growing uncertainty, for the sake of farming, 2017 must provide greater certainty and confidence and I’ll be looking to the government, as farmers look to the NFU, to provide this.
Although the NFU campaigned to remain in the European Union, Raymond said farmers should not “regret what might be lost” but should “seize the opportunity”. Much had already been achieved, he said. “We’ve built an historic coalition with other farming organisations, food producers and processors and ensured that our messages are being heard in the corridors of power in Cardiff and Westminster.”
The effects of working together have already made an impact, he said. “It would have been impossible for the Prime Minister, Defra and the government’s Brexit teams to ignore the largest-ever coalition of UK food producers led by the NFU and other UK farming unions. Together, we called for tariff-free access to the single market and continued access to a competent and reliable workforce. This is paramount for British food and farming to flourish, post-Brexit. Our letter was signed by 75 food organisations and food companies which together employ nearly a million people with a turnover of £92billion. Since then we’ve seen the CBI call that the government achieves a Brexit that works for the whole economy using farming and finance as examples.
“Despite the uncertainty for farms I am pleased to say that public support for British farming remains as strong as ever. We must continue to give people strong reasons to back British food and farming now and in the future. British farming is the bedrock of the UK’s largest manufacturing sector – food and drink. The sector is worth £108 billion to the nation’s economy and provides jobs for 3.9 million people.
“There is no doubt in my mind that 2017 will be an historic, unique opportunity to present a new deal for farming with Britain. We expect 2017 to be busy. We’ll set out our expectations for a post-Brexit domestic farm policy in the new year as part of our response to the anticipated Defra Green Paper, which will re-visit its unpublished 25-year plan and take Brexit into account. This must aim to create a policy that delivers world-class farming that is supported by a world leading science base to ensure our post-Brexit future is profitable, competitive and productive for us all.”