The UK farming sector is a strong dynamic industry with huge potential outside the EU, the presidents of the four UK farming unions agreed today.
Speaking after discussions in Brussels with presidents of European farming unions, the presidents of NFU, NFU Scotland, NFU Cymru and the Ulster Farmers Union jointly agreed a number of key lobbying priorities to ensure the sector remains a powerful contributor to the UK economy.
In a joint statement, the presidents said: “Although we are in a period of uncertainty, we have a once in a lifetime opportunity to develop an agricultural policy that recognises our unique circumstances and enables us to develop a world class agricultural industry that contributes to the wider UK economy.
“Our role is enormous. We contribute £10billion a year to the UK economy, and over £12billion in exports. We provide thousands of jobs and deliver countless benefit to the natural environment. To be able to continue this, and more, we are looking to all UK governments to commit to maintaining current levels of farm support.
“While there are no quick-fix solutions and this will be a slow process, it is essential that we have set out at this early stage what we consider to be the priorities for the negotiations and the creation of future agriculture policy in our respective countries.”
However, the four UK Presidents agreed certain key principles that all UK governments needed to support in order to deliver a dynamic, rewarding agriculture policy in their respective countries.
NFU President Meurig Raymond said: “Ours is a sector with huge responsibility and huge potential. UK produce is known the world over for its quality; to continue this, we will need the best possible access to markets in the rest of Europe. New trade agreements with countries outside the EU must be made on the most favourable terms possible. We cannot risk opening our own market to imports that are not produced to our world leading standards.”
NFU Scotland President Allan Bowie said: “Whether seasonal or full-time, our governments need to ensure that Scottish farmers have access to the labour that we need to produce the food that consumers want. Migrant labour is essential to the future growth of the industry and we cannot allow this to be put at risk.”
NFU Cymru President Stephen James added: “Welsh farmers understand the role that science can play in driving our industry even further forward. If we are to remain competitive then it is essential that all decisions relating to the use of pesticides, herbicides and new technologies must be based on sound science and evidence. A risk, rather than a hazard or precautionary-based approach, is needed.
Speaking on behalf of the Ulster Farmers Union, President Barclay Bell added: “Leaving the EU gives us the opportunity to build a new domestic agricultural policy which is adapted to our needs. Bureaucratic requirements that add costs on farm but deliver no added value must be removed.
Finally, all four presidents added: “Our presence and our team in our Brussels office is more crucial than ever before as we look to represent UK farmers interests going forward and secure the best possible deal for the future. It was also heartening that our colleagues from farming organisations across Europe have today offered us their strong support, recognising that we remain powerful allies and there will be a clear need to achieve a satisfactory outcome for all.”