The National Farmers’ Union has passed a resolution backing the UK to stay within the European Union.
In a statement the NFU said it recognises and respects the diversity of views among its membership.
It added: “The NFU’s position is based solely on an evaluation of the agricultural merits of the case and the NFU is fully aware there are many wider issues at stake.
“The NFU will not be actively campaigning in the referendum; it will not be joining with any campaign groups and it will not, in any circumstances, advise its members how to vote.
“It is, however, the case that the Electoral Commission rules governing the referendum in effect mean that the NFU will be required to register to enable it to continue to carry out its essential role of informing members of the issues as they affect farmers.”
The wording of the agreed resolution reads as follows: “The NFU Council resolves that on the balance of existing evidence available to us at present, the interests of farmers are best served by our continuing membership of the European Union.”
A spokesperson added that whether the vote is to stay or to leave, the NFU will always lobby to obtain the best possible deal for British farmers.
The vote at NFU council looked at key issues including the implications for our agricultural trade with the EU and the rest of the world, the balance of risks of a national farm policy versus the CAP, the impact of the agricultural uncertainty following a vote to leave, the potential impacts for the wider food chain, the consequence for farming regulation, in or out, the consequences for agricultural labour availability, the consequence for agricultural product approvals and the consequences for science and R&D relating to agriculture.
Meanwhile, Peter Kendall, former President of the National Farmers’ Union, has responded to the announcement from the NFU Council.
Mr Kendall, said: “Britain’s membership of the EU is essential for the farming and food industry so it is hugely significant that the NFU has today confirmed that it believes UK agriculture will have a more secure future within the EU.
“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. We saw from the NFU’s own report earlier this month that leaving the EU could hit our industry hard and their support today demonstrates that walking away puts too much at risk.
“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.
“That is why I fully welcome the decision from the NFU who have made it clear that Britain’s farmers are stronger, safer and better off in the EU.”