The NFU has responded to the Autumn Statement by Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond.
NFU director of policy Andrew Clark said: “The NFU’s vision is clear: competitive, profitable and progressive farm businesses are central to a dynamic UK food chain and a thriving food and farming sector. Farming is the bedrock of the UK’s food and drink industry worth £108 billion to the economy and providing jobs for 3.9 million people, all while providing great British food.
“While there are some positives measures announced today, it is disappointing that the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement fell short of delivering measures that will enable our farm businesses to maximise their potential.
“The Chancellor’s planned reduction to the rate of Corporation Tax, while providing benefits to the supply chain, does little to help the majority of farm businesses that are unincorporated. Farm businesses need to be able to retain and invest profits in infrastructure and equipment to improve their productivity and the tax system needs to recognise and support this, as it does other parts of the economy.
“The National Living Wage rate will be increased to £7.50 per hour in April 2017. The NFU strongly supports a living wage for all workers but we have expressed to Government our concerns about the speed of the implementation. Accelerating increases will make this even more difficult for employers and we remain concerned about the lack of consultation with the agricultural and horticultural sector on these measures and how they will affect farm businesses.
“Although the Chancellor has announced a new National Productivity Investment Fund that will add £23 billion in higher value investment over the next five years, including a £2 billion investment in research and development, it is not clear where this will be spent. The Government must continue its support of the Agri-Tech Strategy and this new investment simply must include the agri-food sector.
“British farming will need a strong and functioning research and development pipeline to deliver solutions to both increase productivity and deliver environmental goods. To achieve this ambition to be at the cutting edge of science and technology, the whole country must be digitally connected and be able to utilise technology.
“We note the announcement of £700 million into full-fibre connections and 5G. We are eager to see what this will deliver for the remaining 5% unable to access adequate digital infrastructure at the moment – many of whom are in rural areas.”