Tariff-free trade with EU ‘vital’, says new NFU president

The NFU's newly-elected officeholder team. From left, vice president Stuart Roberts, president Minet

The NFU's newly-elected officeholder team. From left, vice president Stuart Roberts, president Minette Batters and deputy president Guy Smith. Picture: SIMON HADLEY - Credit: Simon Hadley

A zero-tariff, frictionless trade with the EU market place is “vital” for British farmers, a farmers’ leader has warned.

Incoming National Farmers’ Union president Minette Batters set out her vision for British food and farming in front of an audience of political and industry stakeholders in Westminster.

In her first official speech since taking charge, delivered on Monday, February 26, she called on Government to help put British farming on the global map in what she called ‘a new dawn for the countryside.’

“Today, I am calling on the whole of Government to help us put Britain on the global map when it comes to farming. I want to be involved in Brexit trade negotiations, and for farming to be the first to take its place in this new buyers’ market,” she said.

“However, we must not turn our back on the EU market, it remains crucial for British farmers, with 40% of our lamb, 80% of our dairy exports and 75% of our wheat and barley exports currently going into Europe. It is vital we have zero-tariff, frictionless trade with the EU market place.

“Just as they have promoted British industry and defence interests abroad, our Ministers now need to stand shoulder to shoulder with farmers and push British agricultural goods.”

Ms Batters stressed the need for Government to recognise good quality, traceable and affordable food as a public good.

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“We know the British people expect high animal welfare standards, responsible environmental stewardship and good quality, traceable and affordable food. Our own UK market has demanded ever greater food safety regulation and as farmers and growers we’ve risen to that challenge - that’s why we believe that the food we produce is a public good,” she said. “Good quality, safe and traceable food is a public right and above all else a necessity for each and every one of us. I want British farming to be the food producer of choice for every British citizen, no matter who they are, where they live and regardless of their income.

“More than that British people should want to shout loudly and with pride about the food, we as an island nation, produce.”

She set out four themes - making UK farming ‘the envy of the world’, enhancing the natural environment and improving soil health, feeding more families in the UK and overseas, and championing farming at home and abroad.