The new Agricultural Bill, due for publication in 2018, will shape the farming industry for generations to come, NFU president Meurig Raymond said in his New Year message.
The Bill, which will follow the publication of an Agricultural White Paper, will map of the future of UK farming outside the EU, including a new domestic agricultural policy.
“Despite the uncertain times, I am confident that the NFU has set a clear path for farming and that working with the industry, stakeholders and Governments across the UK, we can all secure a future that delivers for the country, society and thousands of family farms,” Mr Raymond said.
“Farming is the bedrock of the UK’s food and drink sector, now worth £112 billion to the nation’s economy, providing jobs for 3.8 million people. Future policy must enable British farmers to invest and grow so the sector can continue to play its part in a successful UK post-Brexit.
“With Brexit negotiations now past the initial phase, it is more important than ever that we recognise and support the work of British farmers in providing the food for our nation, maintaining our iconic farmed landscape and contributing billions of pounds to the UK’s economy.”
The Government has committed to maintain the current level of agricultural funding until 2022, while it has also endorsed the NFU’s vision for the future Domestic Agricultural Policy, Mr Raymond added.
“This vision focuses on three cornerstones – environment, productivity and volatility – which we believe should form the basis of bold and ambitious future policy measures. It outlines that competitive, sustainable and profitable farm businesses are central to a dynamic food supply chain and as well as increasing the UK’s self-sufficiency. The NFU will continue to work hard through 2018 to see this vision become reality,” Mr Raymond said.
“In what has been a frustrating year for many, the NFU and its members have been clear in their message to Government: post-Brexit policy must allow farms to be profitable, productive and progressive. Opportunities have and will continue to arise throughout Brexit negotiations and we must be ready to take them wherever we can.”
The latest NFU member survey of 750 farmers showed farmer confidence has hit an all-time low since the survey began eight years ago, while confidence for the next 12 months has also taken a hit as we prepare to leave the EU.
The survey also shows that twice as many farmers are going to reduce investment (20%) than increase investment (10%) because of uncertainty associated with Brexit.
Input prices were identified as having the biggest negative effect in the year ahead. A weaker pound has provided farmers with improved prices for their produce, but feed, fuel and fertiliser have also witnessed cost hikes.
This was closely followed by regulation and legislation, Brexit and economic conditions.
Mr Raymond said: “These results are a clear signal that the lack of certainty is impacting business decisions right now and that, in turn, has the potential to make farm businesses less resilient for when the UK leaves the EU.”