Farming leader says ‘political paralysis’ has left East Anglia’s rural businesses ‘in limbo’
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The new year could usher in a new era for the region's farming industry – so resolving Brexit's uncertainties should top the list of politicians' resolutions for 2019, says RACHEL CARRINGTON, East Anglia regional director for the National Farmers' Union (NFU).
A new year is a time for resolutions so I hope MPs return to Westminster resolving to provide some desperately-needed clarity about Brexit and our future relationship with the European Union.
The political paralysis we've seen over the past few months has left farm businesses in Norfolk and Suffolk in limbo, unsure of what will happen after March 29 and with the threat of a no-deal Brexit looming ever larger.
NFU members I speak to are extremely concerned about the possible impact, including potential labour shortages, supply chain disruption and unfair competition from food imports produced to lower standards and with lower costs.
Those attending the NFU's extraordinary council meeting before Christmas agreed unanimously that we must continue to lobby to avoid a 'no deal' outcome and for as free a trade in agri-food goods as possible with our principal EU market.
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This is our primary focus as we enter 2019, but there are other key issues facing food and farming as well.
An Agriculture Bill is working its way through Parliament that will help shape our domestic agricultural policy for many years to come.
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We have met many Norfolk and Suffolk MPs over the past few months to seek their support for making this bill truly agricultural, by ensuring food production is at its heart.
This includes seeking their backing for amendments that value and protect our high production, animal welfare and environmental standards.
We also want the bill to establish a budgetary framework covering several years. This will provide certainty for farmers and allow them to plan and invest for the future.
It will also protect farm businesses from volatility, such as the unprecedented weather extremes that farmers faced across East Anglia this year.
Rural crime remains another ongoing challenge, with too many lives and businesses affected by crimes including fly tipping, hare coursing, burglaries and machinery theft.
We are lobbying hard to ensure there is a joined up and consistent approach to policing and prosecution, and rural communities get the policing they expect and deserve.
So there are plenty of challenges ahead for the early part of 2019.
Let us hope the end result is a future where farmers can improve their productivity and resilience, while caring for the environment, and where our country can continue to benefit from a safe, secure and affordable supply of British food.