While emphasising it would not be drawn into the front line hurly-burly of the European referendum, the English NFU this week quietly gave its support to continued membership of the European Union.
By doing so, the 55,000 member-strong organisation echoed the similar stance taken earlier this year by NFU Scotland when, at that time, it stated the overall benefits of EU membership outweighed the costs.
Yesterday NFU Scotland said it would like to be part of “robust debate on the likely scenarios for agriculture in Scotland and the UK in the case of Brexit” and for this debate to take place after the Scottish Parliament election in early May.
In the English union statement of support for continuing the present link with mainland Europe, it stressed it was based solely on an evaluation of the agricultural merits of the case.
Among the factors influencing the decision were the implications for agricultural trade with the EU and the rest of the world and an assessment of risks of having a national farm policy versus the CAP.
Before arriving at its decision, the English NFU also considered the impact of any uncertainty on the agricultural industry that might follow a vote to leave along with the potential impacts on the wider food chain and on agricultural labour availability.
Other considerations that were discussed at 28 roadshows around the country prior to the decision by the NFU Council were the consequences for agricultural product approvals and for science and R&D relating to agriculture.
The union admitted there were many wider issues at stake in the referendum and said it would not be active in the campaign. Neither would it join with any campaign group nor advise its members how to vote.
While current union leaders refrained from comment, former president, Peter Kendall heartily endorsed its pro-European stance.
“Britain’s membership of the EU is essential for the farming and food industry so it is hugely significant that the NFU has confirmed that it believes UK agriculture will have a more secure future within the EU,” he said.
“Being part of the single market – our home market of 500 million consumers – is crucial to the long term prosperity of farming in this country.
“Leaving the EU would make trading farm products significantly harder, financial support uncertain and leave farmers facing years of uncertainty. That is too much of a gamble and one our industry cannot afford to take.”