The National Farmers Union is using a new report outlining the economic value of British agriculture to urge lawmakers that a well-defined post-Brexit agri policy is needed.
The sector is worth £108 billion ($134.5 billion; €127.4 billion) and generates around £18 billion worth of export earnings annually, while employing around 475,000 people; which translates to a £7.40 return on every £1 invested, according to the NFU report.
Farming also plays an important role in managing over 70 percent of the UK’s land area, providing wildlife habitat and countryside tourism worth at least £2 billion a year, NFU president Meurig Raymond wrote in an op-ed calling for clear post-Brexit rules on agriculture.
The NFU has consistently argued that the absence of a coherent post-Brexit policy would undermine agriculture and threaten farm businesses.
“In order for agriculture to continue to contribute so magnificently to our national coffers and the protection of our rural heritage, we need the government to put farming at the heart of its Brexit negotiations,” Raymond wrote. “Leaving the EU will allow us to take control of the policy that currently governs our farming industry.”
Fair trade and the best possible access to European markets is the top priority, he argued, noting that 70 percent of the UK’s exported food goes to the European Union. Access to EU labor is next in line, he said.
Raymond reportedly made similar comments at the NFU annual conference in Birmingham, where Defra secretary Andrea Leadsom was on hand.
According to reports, Leadsom said that deals pushing free trade, a more productive workforce, environmental incentives, and the promotion of animal and plant health and welfare were keys to ongoing discussions with the industry, neighboring governments as well as Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.