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East Anglian farmers urged to benchmark business before Brexit at Trinity Park, Ipswich, AHDB/NFU event

PUBLISHED: 16:49 27 October 2017

NFU Brexit Roadshow at Trinity Park (L-R) Will Dickinson (NFU), Sarah Baker (AHDB), Gail Souter (NFU) and Robert Sheasby (NFU)

NFU Brexit Roadshow at Trinity Park (L-R) Will Dickinson (NFU), Sarah Baker (AHDB), Gail Souter (NFU) and Robert Sheasby (NFU)

Only a quarter of the UK’s top farm businesses - regardless of size - will emerge from three different Brexit scenarios in a good state as things stand, East Anglian farmers were warned this week.

Will Dickinson, Chair of the NFU speaking at the NFU Brexit Roadshow Will Dickinson, Chair of the NFU speaking at the NFU Brexit Roadshow

A Brexit roadshow, hosted by Trinity Park, Ipswich, on Monday (October 23), laid out the potential impacts of Brexit as farm levy payers’ body the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) senior economist Sarah Baker set out its findings across a range of farming sectors, using three theoretical scenarios, from ‘evolution’ to ‘Fortress UK’.

It showed farm businesses in the top 25% would remain viable regardless of the size or sector.

Individual businesses would need to get “fit for the future” regardless of the scenario, she warned.

“At the moment, I would say if I were in your shoes, it’s time to sit back and get a helicopter view,” she said. “We are very keen for our levy payers to go out and benchmark.”

Gail Souter speaking at the NFU Brexit Roadshow Gail Souter speaking at the NFU Brexit Roadshow

She urged farmers to visit the AHDB website for practical advice on how to go about it. “Make sure you are in that top 25% consistently,” she said.

Meanwhile, the National Farmers’ Union’s (NFU) chief EU and international trade adviser Gail Soutar explained its vision for post-Brexit agriculture in the UK.

A “Fortress UK” approach to Brexit would be “devastating” across various sectors, farmers were warned, and farmers would need to scrutinise their approaches in order to ensure they were in line with the top-performing farms in order to insulate themselves against potential challenges of the Brexit process, and any negative impacts of future UK farming policy.

Some impacts were already being felt, they were told, and the NFU and others were lobbying to help growers hit by labour shortages.

Sarah Baker speaking at the NFU Brexit Roadshow Sarah Baker speaking at the NFU Brexit Roadshow

“We are now calling for a seasonal agricultural workers’ scheme to be in place for next year,” said Ms Soutar.

While some might anticipate a ‘bonfire of regulations’, this was not likely, but a move to UK regulation meant that the EU’s broad-brush approach to cater for diverse countries could be replaced by something more streamlined and geographically relevant, she argued. It would be important to feed into an agriculture bill as it begins to be formulated to ensure the industry remains strong, she added.

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