NFU urges farmers to take the initiative in pivotal general election campaign

Guy Smith, vice president of the National Farmers' Union

Guy Smith, vice president of the National Farmers' Union - Credit: NFU

Farmers have been urged to take responsibility for putting their case to voters and prospective MPs during what could be the industry's most pivotal election campaign for decades.

NFU vice president Guy Smith said while the National Farmers' Union had a key lobbying role, individual farmers were the 'best spokesmen' for the industry as the nation prepares to go to the polls on June 8.

He said agriculture was a 'very politicised' sector and the general election, which will give political parties the opportunity to outline their post-EU food policy ideas ahead of the Brexit negotiations, made the next six weeks a uniquely important time for farming's voice to be heard.

Mr Smith, who chaired the Norfolk Farming Conference in February, said: 'This will be the first election since 1966 that will return a government which will need to sit down and write a completely new farming policy.

'You could argue the (EU's) Common Agricultural Policy was more to do with the French and Germans and Italians than us, but now we are on our own. The years of relying on continental farmers to do our lobbying for us are over.

'The political heat just keeps going up, but farmers have got to recognise that this is a fast-paced situation we are in and we had better make sure we are on our game.

'We at the NFU have our role. We need to provide the bullets, but it is up to our members to fire the bullets.

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'Farmers are the best spokesmen for our industry and we have to be pro-active. Like it or not, our industry is very politicised for a number of reasons, like support and trade and access to labour and regulations on animal welfare. These are all very important issues which, if they don't go the way we want them to, then as an industry there will be serious repercussions.

'Over the next two years, there will be hundreds of decisions made that will colour the course of our industry for generations. It is a rarely important time for our industry and it is up to farmers to take the opportunity to get in front of MPs and ask them difficult questions about imports of food from abroad that's produced to lower standards, or where their supply of labour is coming from.

'We might not like it, but the politician will always be stamping on our turf and we need to give them some attention, in the nicest possible way.'

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