Banks urged to back British farming

National Farmers' Union president Meurig Raymond, centre, leads a meeting urging banks to back farm

National Farmers' Union president Meurig Raymond, centre, leads a meeting urging banks to back farmers. - Credit: Archant

Farmers’ leaders have urged banks to back British agriculture.

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) called on banks to demonstrate their support to UK farming at a meeting on Tuesday as it laid out the need for investment on farms.

The meeting, led by the NFU president Meurig Raymond, follows a survey by the organisation which showed the number of farmers requesting to borrow money rose to 42% in 2016. Of these, 66% feel banks would be supportive – down 10% on last year.

Farmers at the meeting, held at the NFU headquarters at Stoneleigh, stressed the need for more resilient and productive businesses through investment, as economic uncertainty looms following the Brexit vote.

The meeting heard from NFU director of policy Andrew Clark about the policy opportunities and challenges facing farming in Brexit negotiations – setting the scene for the need for certainty for farm businesses.

“The need for investment in farms has always been there – but with Brexit looming that need has certainly escalated,” said Mr Raymond.

“Productive and profitable farm businesses are vital as the Government enters these major policy negotiations.

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“In light of this, we took the opportunity today to underline the need for banks to make clear to farmers that they are supportive of the sector.

“I was pleased to hear that the NFU and banks in the room were all in agreement - looking to Government to add a much-needed element of certainty to their businesses.

“We’ve established in recent weeks that the right trade environment and the continued access to labour post-Brexit are pivotal for UK food and farming. When we reflected on this, the banks round the table could see that clarity on these issues will determine not only farming’s success, but the success of the nation’s economy.”

n Meanwhile concerns were raised about the need to get farm subsidy support payments dating back to 2015 sorted out for those farmers whose cases had yet to be settled.

Country Land and Business Association (CLA) deputy president Tim Breitmeyer said: “The Rural Payments Agency’s (RPA) single-minded focus on meeting its 90% paid by the end of December target for 2016 Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) payments will be of little comfort to the many hundreds of farmers still left with incomplete or unclear settlements from the 2015 payment round.

“We will not allow these outstanding problems to be ignored and will continue to demand that all outstanding 2015 claims are settled immediately and, at the same time, expedite the payment of their 2016 claims. Behind each unpaid claim is a story of significant pressure and unnecessary hardship and we will not allow the RPA and the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to forget them.”