Batters calls for ability to ‘pause’ transition from direct payments

New farming legislation favouring support for environmental efforts as opposed to production will leave British farmers forced to compete internationally, senior union figures have warned.

National Farmers’ Union (NFU) president Minette Batters said: “The NFU, alongside the whole food supply chain, has been absolutely clear about the essential ingredients for a progressive, profitable, and sustainable food and farming sector post Brexit.

“These include comprehensive measures to improve the environment and productivity and tackle volatility alongside free and frictionless trade and access to a competent and reliable workforce.

The bill, as described in the announcement falls short of our aspirations in these regards.

Batters called for the bill to include the ability to “pause the process” if it is proving unmanageable for farmers, or if the UK’s domestic food supply and food security are put under threat.

“It is vital that in the future British farmers can continue to meet the food needs of a growing population. A future agricultural policy that ignores food production will be damaging for farmers and the public alike,” she said.

“The public demand and deserve safe, high-quality, traceable affordable food, whatever their income. And moreover they want British farms to supply that food.

Farmers’ concerns

“Farmers across the UK will be very concerned that the bill provides only a short-term commitment to improving their competitiveness; we cannot future-proof farming businesses based on the ‘time-limited’ initiatives outlined in this announcement.

“Along with other farmers, I will also be looking to the bill to set out means to address the clear market failure in the food chain that means farmers are not rewarded fairly for the risk and investment they make.

British farmers will need to compete with farmers all over the world, nearly all of whom are supported financially to produce food.

“If British farmers are to underpin the nation’s food security, then they will need the right financial and policy framework to do so in a competitive and volatile global marketplace.

The ability to ‘pause’ the process

“In particular, the bill must provide Government with the powers to pause the process if it is proving unmanageable for farmers, and if our domestic food supply and food security are under threat.

“We are entering an historic period for farming with legislation setting the path for the next generation of farmers and the countryside.

With critical decisions still to be taken in the months and years ahead, it would be foolhardy for the Government to embark on such a path without knowing the trading environment in which it will be set.

“A free and frictionless trade deal with our biggest trading partner, the EU, is absolutely critical to the farming industry.”