NFU President Minette Batters has said that 2019 will be pivotal for both the UK and for farming.
She said her organisation’s focus will be ensuring that Government recognises the strategic importance of British food and farming and the NFU must widen the national debate about the future of our food.
She added: “In the NFU’s food report we raised important questions about what Britain needs for a thriving domestic food industry. I want 2019 to be the start of a national conversation with those who have an interest in home grown food –farmers and growers, processors, retailers, policy makers and the British people. We are being presented with a unique opportunity to shape our food policy and ensure our food security for generations to come and it’s a chance we must grab with both hands.
“Brexit is scheduled to officially take place in less than 90 days. And while the clock keeps ticking it’s still unclear as to what will actually happen and when and how that will impact on British food and farming.
“What we need is clarity as, after nearly two and a half years since the referendum took place, we are still no closer to finding out the details of our future relationship with the EU, what kind of trading environment we could be operating under in the future and where our future workforce will come from.
“We have outlined repeatedly that a no-deal Brexit means disruption and delays at borders, technical restrictions and the threat of import tariffs, to name but a few. It would be nothing short of catastrophic and could have a devastating impact on the millions of people working in our industry, threatening livelihoods and severely undermining farm businesses,” the NFU president added.
“Beyond March 29, if a deal is struck, farmers and growers will need stability as we make the transition from EU regulation to UK-based policy and regulation. This will be a critical period as we wait to see what our trading relationship with the EU looks like.
“Despite all the Brexit uncertainty, our job - and my focus - is to engage with MPs to ensure the new Agriculture Bill will deliver for British farmers and growers. It is vital that it establishes a framework that supports farmers as food producers and custodians of the countryside. Delivering a domestic farming policy that works for the whole industry is essential if we are to continue producing quality and affordable food for everyone.
“At the same time it is crucial that we continue to highlight the important role farming plays in protecting and enhancing the environment. Just a few weeks ago, the NFU held its first ever environment conference. This platform showcased the work of farmers protecting and enhancing the countryside as well as the work ahead to ensure we have a thriving natural landscape and productive ‘shop floor’.
“Despite the political upheaval, farmers have continued to show determined resilience. We have seen that in action over the past year where farmers continued to produce a plentiful supply of safe, traceable and affordable food for the nation, despite incredibly challenging weather conditions.
“As an industry, we are ready and able to tackle the challenges ahead as well as making the most of new opportunities. But we need everyone – producers, processors, politicians, retailers and the public - to back British farming like never before. It is my hope that in 2019 we will finally receive clarity on what the future looks like for farming – one which will allow farm businesses to do what they do best – provide food for the nation.”
Meanwhile, former NFU President Meurig Raymond has been awarded a CBE in the New Year’s Honours.
NFU President Minette Batters congratulated Mr Raymond on receiving the honour for his services to farming.
Mrs Batters said: “Meurig has been a fantastic advocate of British farming for decades and continues to be a stalwart of the industry, championing British farming in all he does. During his time as President of the NFU he was a tireless worker for his members and I am incredibly pleased to see his achievements recognised by receiving this honour.
“Whether it was in Westminster, Brussels or even further afield, Meurig always had what was best for British farmers and growers at the forefront of his mind and made it his mission to represent their interests to politicians, civil servants, the supply chain and the wider industry. He was acutely aware how important British farming was to the country in its role producing safe, traceable and affordable food to the public and he was driven by a desire to ensure British farmers were fairly rewarded for their work.
“Meurig is a passionate supporter of British farming and this always shone through in his work representing farmers and growers. I am proud to have worked with him as part of the NFU’s officeholder team and I want to congratulate him on receiving this honour.”