English farmers have given a thumbs-up to life after leaving the European Union with a vision of farm businesses being central to a “dynamic food chain” in “a countryside that works for everyone”.
Over the past eight weeks the English NFU has toured the country finding out the views of its membership on life post-Brexit.
Brexit is not about burning bridges, but building themMeurig Raymond
Reporting on the findings, union president Meurig Raymond said: “The overwhelming view from our membership is that we need a bold and ambitious vision for the industry shared by government that delivers improved health, wealth and environment for the British people.”
He went on: “This vision will be vital in helping to produce the raw ingredients for a dynamic food and drink industry, one that underpins the £108 billion contribution to the UK economy and the 3.9 million jobs for people working in food and farming.
“The sentiment of consultation responses was that Brexit is not about burning bridges, but building them; to that end we’ll be looking at what allegiances we can form to ensure the voice for British food and farming is as strong as possible.”
The union will now incorporate its members’ responses into a policy framework.
Raymond added: “What’s at stake here clearly needs to remain at the front of this debate – protecting the environment alongside having access to safe, affordable, traceable home-grown food and for that we need to have competitive, profitable and progressive farming.
“It is now up to us to put forward credible policies in the very important months ahead. The NFU’s task is to achieve long-term confidence and, crucially, short-term certainty.”
It is expected that the union’s detailed policy paper will now be developed for publication early next year.
However, farming leaders in England and Wales have also expressed concerns over what might be a change in previously confirmed government support in the run-up to Brexit, with Chancellor Philip Hammond seemingly making his previous promise to continue funding environmental schemes conditional.
In a joint statement issued by the Treasury and the Department for Exiting the EU this week, Hammond stated the funding pledge would only be honoured as long as projects were good value for money and “in line with domestic strategic priorities”.
This week has also seen Prime Minister Theresa May’s policy adviser, George Freeman MP, stating that farming subsidies might have to be diverted to the NHS unless farmers made a good case for keeping them in agriculture.