An NFU resolution stating that the interests of British farmers will be best served if the UK remains a member of the European Union has met with mixed reaction.
A motion favouring the UK remaining an EU member was passed by the NFU at a union council meeting on Monday (18 April).
See also: NFU backs UK remaining within the EU
Former NFU president Peter Kendall said the UK’s continued membership of the EU was essential for Britain’s farming and food industry.
“It is hugely significant that the NFU has today confirmed it believes UK agriculture will have a more secure future within the EU. “Being part of the single market – our home market of 500 million consumers – is crucial to the long-term prosperity of farming in this country.
“We saw from the NFU’s own report earlier this month that leaving the EU could hit our industry hard and the union’s support today demonstrates that walking away puts too much at risk.
“Leaving the EU would make trading farm products significantly harder, financial support uncertain and leave farmers facing years of uncertainty.
“That is too much of a gamble and one our industry cannot afford to take. That is why I fully welcome the decision from the NFU, which has made it clear that Britain’s farmers are stronger, safer and better off in the EU.”
Defra minister George Eustice, who believes the UK should leave the EU, highlighted the NFU’s pledge not to campaign for or against membership, despite its pro-EU stance.
Mr Eustice said: “Farmers are very divided over whether we should stay in the EU and the NFU are right to remain neutral and not to campaign.
“The NU’s own recent study showed that, if we left the EU, there would be a firming in farmgate prices and a recovery of farm incomes.
“Virtually every problem the NFU complains to me about is a direct consequence of dysfunctional EU law.
“Farmers who want to see change and a better future should vote to leave and take control so that ministers have the power to sort things out.”
Shadow Defra secretary Kerry McCarthy said: “The conclusions of the NFU’s research are clear – if we vote to leave the EU, the options on the table leave UK farming worse off.
“The agricultural industry supports millions of jobs in the UK and part of that success is access to 500 million consumers and customers.
“Being part of Europe makes our economy stronger, gives us better security and allows us to have a real say on the global stage.
“If we walk away we put jobs and investment in the rural economy at risk.
“Our farmers deserve every opportunity to thrive and I welcome the NFU’s decision that the weight of evidence shows a vote to remain is the strongest and safest choice.”