The EU Agriculture Commissioner is due to visit the UK next week to meet farmers face-to-face and discuss concerns relating to the Common Agricultural Policy.
Mariann Fischer Boel will be touring farms in the South West on 13 November and will speak to farmers directly during a NFU-led debate in Tiverton. MEP Neil Parish, chairman of the European Parliament's Agricultural Committee, will also take part, giving farmers the chance to voice their opinions to the EU's top decision-makers.
NFU president Peter Kendall, who will lead the debate in Tiverton, said: "Farmers and growers are affected more than ever by what is decided by the EU, Brussels officials need to know the realities of farming on the ground and this is a golden opportunity to have our voice heard. The open ears of Commissioner Fischer Boel have therefore never been more important."
The visit comes at a vital time for UK agriculture, with the Commissioner due to negotiate a deal on the CAP Health Check the following week in Brussels.
Fischer Boel has been openly critical of the UK government's CAP vision, which includes the removal of all direct payments within the next 10-15 years. She believes that although decoupling was necessary, farmers still need some support to look after their land and remain competitive.
Speaking at the European Liberal Democrats (ELDR) Congress in Sweden on 31 October, the Commissioner said that "support for agricultural prices now plays a more modest and more fitting role than once it did", pointing out that decoupled direct payments do not depend on production and therefore leave farmers free to listen to the market and produce accordingly.
But she insisted that direct payments are still necessary, describing them as "the main tool for supporting farmers".
"We must not leave absolutely everything to the market. The market will not reliably deliver things like a good level of care for our countryside," she said. "And our farmers need defences against crises, otherwise shocks from bad weather or an animal disease epidemic could wipe out too much of our production potential - with serious consequences."