NFU looks to the year ahead

National Farmers’ Union (NFU) president Meurig Raymond has urged the government and the complete food supply chain to back the British farming industry as we enter 2016. 

“I won’t shy away from saying how tough this year has been for farming,” admitted Raymond. “We’ve experienced a very difficult cash flow crisis within the industry and recovery may be some time off.

“But this dark cloud had many silver linings. The NFU, with its members, has made more substantial steps forward this year with many achievements benefiting the agri-food industry as a whole. The Chancellor’s announcement to allow farmers up to five years’ tax averaging and the Annual Investment Allowance of £200,000 during his financial statement were important announcements for the farming industry.

“New legislation to tackle fly-grazing, the approval of our application for emergency use of neonicotinoid seed treatments and new regulations on tractor and trailer weights and speeds are just a few more examples of how we’ve made a difference. I’m determined to build on all our achievements as we enter what is set to be a very busy year for the farming industry.”

Raymond said the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) and Countryside Stewardships would continue to be a main focus point for the organisation, and acknowledged the importance of the payments and the difficulties presented when they are delayed. The NFU aims to prioritise lobbying Defra, Natural England and the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) to improve delivery, guidance, IT and scheme administration, so that the industry knows how to best benefit from them. “Similarly, the work with the likes of HMRC and the banks will continue in earnest in our efforts to alleviate financial pressures while there are delays.”

In addition, the farming body will focus on overcoming animal diseases: “Bovine TB remains a huge problem for beef and dairy farmers across large parts of the country. The success of this year’s cull operations, in areas where the disease is rife, shows we are moving in the right direction. In 2016 we will keep pushing Defra for full implementation of the 25-year TB eradication strategy as quickly as possible; I still see the total human misery this disease causes for farmers and their businesses and the NFU remains dedicated to stopping the spread and ultimately eradicating this disease.”

Raymond said he expects the EU referendum, taking place later in the year, will have an impact on the farming industry. In response to this, the NFU said it remained dedicated to providing information on what the financial impact of being in or out of Europe would have on the trade: “It’s vital we know the facts before casting the vote that could completely change the way our industry works.”

“It has been a challenging year given the levels of volatility we’ve seen, both in markets and weather, and I know it has knocked the confidence of many farmers,” continued Raymond.

“Safeguarding farm businesses from the destructive effects of volatility is essential; the UK is going to be the most populous country in the EU by the mid-2040s, which is many more mouths to feed. We need action from government, in the EU and domestically, and all parts of the supply chain to enable a competitive, productive and profitable farming industry to supply this country with a safe, secure,
affordable supply of British food.”

Raymond concluded by saying the industry would rise to any obstacles presented over the next 12 months: “We’re entering a critical time for British farmers and an increasingly challenging environment for food production. But I firmly believe that, with its bold and ambitious characteristics, the NFU will prove yet again how indispensable it is to farmers in 2016.”

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