Assurances sought as farming sector enters 'new era’

There are calls for the new Conservative majority government to back British farming 'like never before.'

Prime minister Boris Johnson has returned to Downing Street with a Conservative majority after an extraordinary election night.

The NFU said it will start working with the government 'straight away' as the UK is set to leave the EU by the end of January.

The union's president Minette Batters said: “Britain needs the new government to back British farming like never before; to invest in domestic food production so we can increase our productivity, create more jobs and deliver more for the environment.

“Government needs to act to ensure guaranteed access to a skilled and competent workforce; develop a framework for a more competitive and sustainable farming industry; put in place a long-term food strategy; and place science at the heart of policy making.

“This will allow farming businesses to continue doing what they do best – provide safe, traceable and affordable food for the nation.”

The acknowledgement that future trading relationships are destined to change prompted NFU Scotland president Andrew McCornick to call for the new UK Government to take early steps to “give certainty” to the industry.

“The government has indicated that the necessary legislation to leave the EU on January 31 will be presented to Parliament next week.

“Once passed, the real work then begins on agreeing the future trading arrangements with Europe. Those talks are critical to the future of our industry,” he said.

The NFU's own election manifesto raised a number of industry issues that urges the new government to address to ensure British food production has a sustainable and ambitious future.

Mrs Batters said: “Top of that list is Brexit. It’s imperative we secure a future trade deal with the EU that is as free and frictionless as possible, avoiding the damaging spectre of trading with our largest partner on WTO terms.

“Alongside this, our future trade policy mustn't allow imports of food produced to standards that would be illegal to produce here.”

The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) echoed this sentiment, urging the government not to undercut UK farmers with cheap imports produced to lower standards.

The group's president, Mark Bridgeman said: “Many will breathe a sigh of relief that this result at least brings a degree of political certainty.

“But for all the claims of ‘getting Brexit done’ the idea that Brexit ends on 31st January is wrong.

“Assuming we leave the EU next month, we will have less than a year to negotiate a Free Trade Agreement with Europe or else once again no-deal is back on the table. This timeframe is hugely optimistic,” he said.

“We will do what we can to help government negotiate comprehensive agreements not just with the EU but across the world.

“But government needs to earn the trust of rural communities by guaranteeing that UK farmers will not be undercut by cheap imports produced to lower standards.”

Source: Farming UK