The Tenant Farmers Association (TFA) is warning the Government to consider the impact of ‘No deal’ planning on the farming community.
Of all the sectors of the UK economy, farming is by far the most entwined into the European Union whether through policy, trade or the free movement of labour. If we end up leaving the European Union in March without having agreed a transitional period, the Government must ensure that it does not respond in a way which could damage the agricultural industry into the long term.
TFA Chief Executive, George Dunn, said “The Government has just published its forecast for this year’s total income from farming in the UK predicting a 15% reduction in overall income, and a 6% reduction in the contribution agriculture will make to GDP. This is largely due to weather related factors with a prolonged cold, wet winter, little or no spring, followed by a dry, hot summer. The sector is already vulnerable and could be further hit badly in some of the scenarios being predicted for ‘No deal’.”
A significant concern is on trade, with the Government talking about allowing tariff free access to the UK for goods from abroad in order to minimise market disruption for consumers.
“Although understandable, the Government must guard against allowing access for food products produced to lower food safety, environmental and animal welfare standards than allowed in the UK. It must also plan for mitigating measures against the tariffs that will be faced by UK farm exports heading to Europe. Keeping these markets open will be vital while we negotiate new free trade agreements with the EU and other countries. However, the Government must step in to maintain returns to primary producers in the interim,” said Mr Dunn.
There will also be regulatory hoops to jump through including, to ensure the UK achieves official third country status to be able to trade with the EU, and we have the necessary export health certificates agreed. “We need the Government’s assurance that all of this will be in place,” said Mr Dunn.
“Access to labour should also be a key focus for Government. With the extent to which many of our farms, food processors and the food logistics network is reliant upon labour from the EU, this will not be easily replaced by UK born labour in the short term. Urgent measures will need to be put in place to secure labour, so our productive capacity can be maintained,” said Mr Dunn.