The NFU will lobby the government for work to start on a Farm Bill for British agriculture following the UK’s historic vote to leave the European Union.
NFU president Meurig Raymond spoke to Farmers Weekly at 6.15am on Friday (24 June) as the Leave campaign took an unassailable lead in the UK’s EU referendum.
Speaking about the referendum result, Mr Raymond said: “I never dreamed it would turn out like this – it is historic, a game changer.”
It was important the government ensured UK agriculture was able to thrive in the immediate aftermath of the referendum – as well as in the months and years ahead.
It was also important to remember the UK was still an EU member and the withdrawal process would not start until the prime minister triggered Article 50.
Mr Raymond said: “We will be calling for a UK Farm Bill – I can’t see what else you can call it – and negotiations to secure the trade deals we need with the rest of Europe.”
Securing those trade deals would be a big issue for UK farmers, he added.
“In the meantime, we will be sitting down with the government and arguing the case for a competitive farming industry that we still need and expect.”
An extraordinary meeting of the NFU’s ruling council will take place in London on 1 July.
Mr Raymond said: “The vote to leave the EU will inevitably lead to a period of uncertainty in a number of areas that are of vital importance to Britain’s farmers.
“The NFU will engage fully and constructively with the British government to construct new arrangements. This needs to happen as soon as possible.”
Farmers needed to know the impact on their businesses as a matter of urgency.
“We understand the negotiations will take some time to deliver, but it is vital that there is early commitment to ensure British farming is not disadvantaged.
“It is vital that British farming is profitable and remains competitive, it is the bedrock of the food industry – Britain’s largest manufacturing sector.”
The NFU would be calling for the best possible access Europe’s markets, which would remain extremely important to Britain’s farmers.
It was vital to get access to markets in the rest of the world, while ensuring UK farmers were protected from imports that are produced to lower standards.
Mr Raymond said farmers also needed access to the necessary supplies of labour, both seasonal and full time.
A British agricultural policy should be “as simple as possible, adapted to our needs and guarantee parity of treatment with European farmers, who will still be our principal competitors”.
There must be a common framework of a British policy, while allowing a necessary degree of flexibility to devolved governments, said Mr Raymond.
Regulations and product approvals must be proportionate and based on risk and science.