Political paralysis ‘leaves east’s farm businesses in limbo’, warns NFU chief

NFU East Anglia regional director Rachel Carrington Picture: WARREN PAGE

NFU East Anglia regional director Rachel Carrington Picture: WARREN PAGE - Credit: Archant

Farm businesses in Suffolk and Essex ar ‘extremely concerned’ about the political paralysis over Brexit, a farmers’ leader says.

National Farmers’ Union (NFU) East Anglia director Rachel Carrington said with the threat of a no-deal Brexit looming ever larger, they were worried about potential labour shortages, supply chain disruption and unfair competition from food imports produced to lower standards and with lower costs.

“I hope MPs return to Westminster resolving to provide some desperately-needed clarity about Brexit and our future relationship with the European Union (EU),” she said.

“Those attending the NFU’s extraordinary Council meeting before Christmas agreed unanimously that we must continue to lobby to avoid a no deal outcome and for as free a trade in agri-food goods as possible with our principal EU market.”

This would be the NFU’s primary focus as we enter 2019, but there were other key issues facing food and farming, such as the Agriculture Bill workings its way through parliament which would shape domestic agricultural policy for many years to come, she said.

“We have met many Suffolk and Essex MPs over the past few months to seek their support for making this bill truly agricultural, by ensuring food production is at its heart.

“This includes seeking their backing for amendments that value and protect our high production, animal welfare and environmental standards.

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“We also want the bill to establish a budgetary framework covering several years. This will provide certainty for farmers and allow them to plan and invest for the future. It will also protect farm businesses from volatility, such as the unprecedented weather extremes that farmers faced across East Anglia this year.”

Rural crime remained another ongoing challenge as a new year approaches, with ‘too many’ lives and businesses affected by crimes including fly tipping, hare coursing, burglaries and machinery theft, she said.

The NFU was lobbying hard for a joined up and consistent approach to policing and prosecution, and rural communities get the policing they expect and deserve.

“There are plenty of challenges ahead for the early part of 2019. Let us hope the end result is a future where farmers can improve their productivity and resilience, while caring for the environment, and where our country can continue to benefit from a safe, secure and affordable supply of British food,” she said.