NFU issues Brexit agriculture policy plan

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) wants government to adopt a bold domestic agriculture policy after exiting the EU.  

Farming should be profitable, productive and competitive once Britain leaves the EU on 29 March 2019, the NFU said in a paper outlining its vision for future agriculture policy.

The eight-page document stressed farm law must be underpinned by three cornerstones - productivity, environment and volatility.

“It is absolutely crucial that we adopt an integrated policy; one that provides farmers with the collective means to manage volatility, improve productivity and enhance the environment,” said NFU president Meurig Raymond.

“The absence of focus on any of these cornerstones would necessarily undermine delivery across the other two.”

Funding uncertainty

Raymond admitted there was an “exciting and energetic debate” heating up across the country on how farms should receive financial support from the government once the UK leaves the EU.

Under EU law, UK farming receives billions of pounds in support via the Common Agricultural Policy.

A commitment has been made by government to meet these payments in full up until 2020. But it is unclear what will happen to farm support afterwards, causing great concern to livestock farmers and the meat processors they supply.

Direct farm payments are a key measure used by the industry to mitigate financial pressure in a volatile market. And should Britain get a bad deal on Brexit, these payments will be vital to the UK farming industry that employs 476,000 people and delivers 61% of the nation’s food.

The NFU policy document suggested farm support should be based on a meritocracy, with rewards dished out for the environmental benefits industry delivers.

Threat from forign powers

Raymond added: “Once we leave the EU, we will have the opportunity to develop a new deal for British farmers and citizens - one in which farm businesses are provided with the incentives, rewards and means to become more profitable and resilient and to better meet the expectations and needs of society at large.”

Other measures the NFU wants rolled out by the government include safeguards to protect  domestic industry from any competitive disadvantage that could arise from future trade deals.

It also wants a UK-wide framework for agriculture policy, despite the fact farming is a devolved issue.

The NFU’s vision paper forms part of detailed discussions that politicians and agricultural stakeholders are holding as the government prepares to publish its plans for its forthcoming Agriculture Bill, revealed in the Queen’s Speech in 2017.

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