‘Brexit must herald an agricultural revolution’

The UK’s farming unions have called on the Government to facilitate an ‘agricultural revolution’ post-Brexit – but what exactly does that mean for farmers?

Presidents Barclay Bell, Ulster Farmers’ Union; Minette Batters, National Farmers’ Union; Andrew McCornick, NFU Scotland; and John Davies, NFU Cymru came together in a series of meetings held before the UFU centenary gala to put forward a set of priorities for achieving the best Brexit outcome for UK farming.

Joint statement

The statement comes as the UK moves to the next phase of Brexit negotiations following the sign-off on the framework for a future relationship between the UK and EU.

It calls for the UK Government to get behind farmers and the high quality, safe and affordable food they produce as well as making several other demands.

The letter penned jointly by all four UK farming union presidents read: “A well-managed Brexit must herald an agricultural revolution. Enabling UK farmers to continue to deliver high quality, safe, affordable and responsibly-produced food for all UK consumers, whatever their income.

Our farming and food sector has some of the best standards of food safety, animal welfare and traceability in the world. Brexit should celebrate these standards and new third country trade agreements must not undermine them.

The union leaders also called for more recognition of the environmental work carried out by farmers.

However, they warned that “simply replacing” the Common Agricultural Policy with domestic policy measures would be insufficient to see farming thrive, adding that farmers needed to be considered “equal partners” in the supply chain.

It also called for politicians in all four UK nations to learn from the unions’ example and to work together.

Environmental efforts

The letter read: “Alongside food production, UK farmers manage 70% of the UK land. Our efforts to manage the environment are critical. Healthy soils, clean water, vibrant wildlife and managed landscapes are both the result and underpinning of sustainable food production.

“Brexit is going to bring fundamental change to our sector. A sector that has been driven by European farm and environmental regulation for over 40 years. While we are leaving the political union, we must retain frictionless access to European markets.

“Governments across the UK are ‘taking back control’ for agricultural policy. The farming ministers in all four regions must collaborate, as the UK farming unions are doing.

“We want to see policy changes that are fair to all farms irrespective of size or system, with sufficient time for farm businesses to adapt.”

The letter read that, alongside this, better regulation is needed with support and promotion of UK farming standards “that protect the single UK market from competitive distortions”.

‘Equal partners’

“Replacing the CAP with domestic farm policy measures alone will be insufficient to see farming thrive,” it added.

“We also need a comprehensive approach with all parts of Government across the UK contributing, including delivering fair trade deals, continued access to labour and improved application of new technology.

In particular, farmers need to be equal partners in the supply chain. Our ambition is a post-Brexit supply chain that is fair and equitable for all.

“UK farmers have a great story to tell. We call on all farmers, at this historic moment of change, to speak up for what they deliver for the UK – great food, iconic landscapes and high standards. With the right policy Britain’s farms can be more profitable, productive and progressive.”