The strategic importance of British food and farming to the nation was discussed when Richard Benyon MP met with farmers from across the country last week.
Members of the NFU hosted the lunch event which showcased the best of British food and drink to underline how vital the sector is to the economy in rural areas such as West Berkshire, both now and post-Brexit. MPs discussed how farming – which forms the backbone of the UK’s largest manufacturing sector, food and drink - employs nearly four million people nationally and contributes more than £100 billion to the economy.
Farmers representing all farming sectors, from livestock to horticulture and from crops to poultry, were keen to explain why the agricultural sector needs to be a priority for the Government throughout EU negotiations as the sector most affected by Brexit - as well as what farming can contribute to the country post-Brexit.
Richard Benyon said, ‘The UK’s decision to leave the European Union will have an impact on every sector of our economy. But it is hard to think of any where the changes will be more far-reaching than agriculture. The Common Agricultural Policy, after all, has governed every aspect of farming for decades.
‘Agriculture businesses are a vital source of employment within the region and across the country. I look forward to working with the NFU to ensure the sector has a sufficient labour supply and as much access as possible to European markets. Farming has always formed the bedrock of communities up and down the country and we must recognise its important contribution to the economy both regionally and nationally.’
NFU Deputy President, Minette Matters, said, ‘For decades, the success of our sector has been determined not by Britain, but in Brussels. Leaving the EU creates a defining opportunity for British farming. But we cannot underestimate the unprecedented challenge we face in the years to come. 73% of our agri food exports currently go to the EU. The country relies on the thousands of workers that come from EU countries and further afield to pick the nation’s fruit, flowers and vegetables. So, for farming to deliver for the nation, we need the right conditions. We need the best possible access to trade with Europe, and we need access to a reliable and competent workforce.
‘It was so important to see the MPs from across all parties coming together to show their support for farming and I look forward to continuing our conversation with those decision-makers in the coming weeks and months ahead.’
The meeting was attended by 13 MPs, all of whom pledged their support for farming. They agreed that leaving the EU creates a defining opportunity for the agricultural sector to flourish; providing a clear indication that the country can succeed outside Europe.
The NFU is urging the Government to work for the best possible access to the European Union on fair terms when the UK leaves the Single Market and continued access to a reliable, competent workforce able to support the farming sector’s need for seasonal labour.