NFU president Meurig Raymond’s New Year message

NFU president Meurig Raymond at the 2016 Royal Norfolk Show. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

NFU president Meurig Raymond at the 2016 Royal Norfolk Show. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

National Farmers' Union (NFU) president Meurig Raymond said he will be seeking greater certainty and confidence for his industry next year after a tumultuous 2016.

In his New Year message, Mr Raymond said: 'It is fair to say that 2016 has been a tumultuous year for the farming industry, as it has been for the country.

'We have seen continued extremes in market returns for many sectors, not least dairy, leaving family businesses staring over a precipice one moment, to be replaced by recovering prices the next.

'Alongside the economic realities, the historic EU referendum looks likely to be a game-changer for many as over 40 years of European policy is replaced by farm policy controlled at a UK level.

'While the theme of 2016 has been one of growing uncertainty, for the sake of farming, 2017 must provide greater certainty and confidence and I'll be looking to the government, as farmers look to the NFU, to provide this.

'I am proud of how the NFU and our members have responded to the referendum result. Members' message during our consultation has been clear – make the case for farming to government; ensure we have a policy that allows farms to be profitable, competitive, and progressive; and don't regret what might be lost – seize the opportunity. NFU officeholders and staff have done just this.

'It would have been impossible for the prime minister, Defra and the government's Brexit teams to ignore the largest-ever coalition of UK food producers led by the NFU and other UK farming unions. Together, we called for tariff-free access to the single market and continued access to a competent and reliable workforce.

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'This is paramount for British food and farming to flourish, post-Brexit. Our letter was signed by 75 food organisations and food companies which together employ nearly a million people with a turnover of £92bn. Since then we've seen the CBI call that the government achieves a Brexit that works for the whole economy using farming and finance as examples.

'Despite the uncertainty for farms I am pleased to say that public support for British farming remains as strong as ever. We must continue to give people strong reasons to back British food and farming now and in the future. British farming is the bedrock of the UK's largest manufacturing sector – food and drink. The sector is worth £108bn to the nation's economy and provides jobs for 3.9m people.

'There is no doubt in my mind that 2017 will be an historic, unique opportunity to present a new deal for farming with Britain. We expect 2017 to be busy.

'We'll set out our expectations for a post-Brexit domestic farm policy in the new year as part of our response to the anticipated Defra Green Paper, which will re-visit its unpublished 25-year plan and take Brexit into account. This must aim to create a policy that delivers world-class farming that is supported by a world leading science base to ensure our post-Brexit future is profitable, competitive and productive for us all.'