Chancellor urged to recognise Brexit challenges

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The NFU Mutual Insurance Company is calling for the Chancellor to use his forthcoming Budget to ease farmers’ path towards Brexit.

“Until Brexit plans are confirmed, UK farmers are currently unable to make long-term investment because of uncertainty about future agricultural support and export opportunities,” explained Tim Price, NFU Mutual Rural Affairs Specialist.

“To help farmers through this transitional period we are urging the Chancellor to support farmers and the rural community – by simplifying both business and inheritance tax rules and avoid introducing measures that could add more financial stress to rural businesses.”

One issue causing additional pressure on farm businesses was the review of business rates, Tim said.

“Farmers who have diversified and now use their premises for commercial, tourism or retail enterprises are being hit by higher business rates, which is adding to the pressures on farmers’ incomes at a time of low profitability for many farming sectors.

“We’re hoping that the Government’s promise to look at this issue will result in the immediate implementation of full planned rises being delayed.

“We’re also concerned that measures to reduce pollution from diesel vehicles in urban areas by increasing fuel duty could unfairly hit farmers and country people who rely on diesel vehicles such as 4 x 4s, vans and lorries. These vehicles are crucial for thousands of rural businesses.”

Meanwhile, the EU Commission is claiming that trade agreements have helped to boost EU agricultural exports and have supported jobs in the agri-food sector and other sectors of the economy. This is according to a new, independent study carried out on behalf of Brusssels. Trade agreements with three countries – Mexico, South Korea and Switzerland – were studied in detail.

Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Phil Hogan said: “These three agreements alone have increased EU agri-food exports by more than €1 billion and have raised value-added in the agri-food sector by €600 million. Just as importantly, this increase in exports has supported thousands of jobs in total across the EU, most of which in the agri-food sector, including in primary agriculture.

“These figures are clear evidence that ambitious and balanced trade deals work for European food and farming.”

Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström said: “Trade deals, done right, are a force for good for our farmers and food producers. This study also gives important input on how we can continue to cut unnecessary red tape and get rid of barriers in our trade negotiations going forward.”