NFU Comment: Shaping the future of farming in the post-Brexit world

NFU Suffolk county adviser Rachel Carrington.

NFU Suffolk county adviser Rachel Carrington. - Credit: Archant

The UK farming industry makes a huge contribution to the nation by producing high quality food and caring for the countryside. We need to make sure that our industry thrives post Brexit and so it’s now vital that we shape a new vision for an agricultural policy which ensures a dynamic, profitable and productive future for farming and growing, writes Rachel Carrington, the NFU’s Suffolk county adviser.

It’s important to underline the contribution farming already makes to the UK economy. British farmers and growers produce high quality food to world-leading standards while also caring for a thriving environment.

Our sector is the bedrock for a vibrant supply chain and essential for our food and drink industry, worth £108billion to the economy.

The British public have made it clear in survey after survey that they are hugely supportive of British farmers and growers, fully aware of the contribution we make to the economy and the environment and that they would like to see more British food produced at home. The integrity of British produce has never been greater and we’ve seen our major retailers’ sourcing shift towards 100% commitment to selling British produce when in season.

Our vision is for a future policy which enables farming’s contribution to Britain to grow. We need an industry where our farmers are able to compete with the rest of the world and are able to access the latest technologies to allow us to be ever more resilient, competitive and profitable.

The public goods farmers provide should include not just the environment but also renewable energy, education, health and nutrition, to name but a few.

For decades farmers and growers have been subject to policies set at a pan-European scale and have worked to a Common Agricultural Policy which was driven by political and economic pressures on the European stage. The replacement of an EU wide Common Agricultural Policy and regulatory framework with one designed in the UK gives us the opportunity to create a framework which is suited first and foremost to farmers and growers here.

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We need to consider what sort of trade agreement, both with the EU and the rest of the world, would be best for food imports and exports.

An important NFU principle is that we should not be exposed to imports produced to lower standards.

The labour requirements of the industry are also very important. UK agriculture, and in particular the horticulture, poultry, dairy and meat processing sectors are heavily dependent on migrant labour. The question is whether free movement of people to provide this labour source would be politically palatable.

We then need to consider how we build a successful domestic agricultural policy that helps to deliver the vision that we have for both food production and the environment, and what budget, and regulatory burden is attached to it.

Never has it been as important for farmers and growers to engage with the NFU and help shape the future of their industry.

On August 15, the NFU launched its Options Paper, which explores the fundamental elements of the existing Common Agricultural Policy, looks at tools and mechanisms used in other parts of the world, and sets out new options. This NFU consultation, running until September 17, is the biggest of its kind in a lifetime, giving all our members the opportunity to have a say and share their views on what a future domestic agricultural policy should look like.

The Options Paper is available to NFU members on our website – .

To help members there will be a series of meetings across East Anglia on September 12 and 14 Contact the NFU regional office at Newmarket on 01638 672100 to find out more and book your place.