NFU sets out post-EU plan

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) has published the first in a series of ‘Vision for the Future of Farming’ papers. The publication outlines key issues set to impact British farming, which must be addressed now that Article 50 has been triggered.

Three ‘cornerstones’ are highlighted as areas of focus:

• Productivity measures and business resilience
• Volatility mitigation measures and management tools
• Environmental measures

The paper has been written to highlight the priorities the NFU believes need to be taken to ensure a successful farming community once Britain leaves the European Union and is no longer governed by the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

“The NFU and its members are very clear; we must use this opportunity to create the conditions for a productive, resilient and sustainable sector that meets the expectations of the UK public – producing safe and affordable food, looking after our environment and valued countryside, and contributing to productive and robust economic growth,” said NFU president Meurig Raymond.

“The three cornerstones we are proposing all work together to enable farming to be competitive, profitable and progressive and an integral part of a dynamic UK food chain,” he added. “They would enhance the productivity and competitiveness of farm businesses, recognise and reward the environmental goods that farmers deliver, and mitigate volatility where it impacts commercial viability.”

Despite this, he said the focus of the policy would depend on the deal that the government achieves once the Brexit process has been completed. “If the government secures a free trading arrangement with the EU, ensures UK farmers are not disadvantaged by future trade deals outside the EU, and ensures the industry’s labour needs are met, then we can consider an ambitious new policy – one that is designed specifically for our domestic farming sector, involving a wide range of measures which focus on productive, resilient, sustainable and profitable farm businesses. If we get a bad deal for farming, then measures to manage volatility – such as direct payments – will remain vital to help farm businesses compete in an uncertain world.”

According to Raymond, once the UK is no longer subject to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), the government has said farmers will still be supported after 2020. “We believe that farming should maintain current levels of public investment through this new policy framework, but recognise that, in the future, this may be delivered in different ways, directly or indirectly to farmers – for instance, through fiscal incentives, environmental schemes or ensuring farmers benefit from cutting-edge developments in R&D [research and development].”

The NFU report outlined a new Domestic Agricultural Policy, which Raymond said complements the objectives of the NFU on trade, labour and regulatory issues, forming the essentials of the farming sector. “Over the coming weeks and months, as the Brexit negotiations get underway, we will set out our core principles and expectations of government for each,” added Raymond.

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