At a time when agriculture is already struggling to attract the workforce it needs to produce food for the nation and markets further afield, the Government’s new proposals to cut migrant labour have the potential to be extremely damaging, writes Olivia Midgley.
The points-based immigration system designed to limit the number of low-skilled workers coming to the UK will undoubtedly add more pressure to farming businesses, with many worried they may be forced to cut back production due to staff shortages.
The cuts are likely to disrupt the whole supply chain.
And as the British Meat Processors Association’s Nick Allen says, any extra costs are likely to be felt at the farmgate, not by consumers.
It all seems at odds with the Government’s ambitions for ‘Brand Britain’. How can we be a global leader in food and drink while slashing the workforce needed to produce it?
Agriculture is dependent on a wide range of talent and skills, from pickers and packers to meat processors and vets, to continue to deliver our word-leading product.
Without them we risk undermining the sector and its £120 billion contribution to the national economy.
This is something the industry has consistently communicated to those in Westminster for many years and we know it is an issue Defra Secretary George Eustice and new Farming Minister Victoria Prentis understand the importance of.
It is understandable then that farm groups have met the expansion of the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme (SAWS) to just 10,000 places with anger.
While it has been boosted from the original 2,500, it still falls way short of the 70,000 seasonal workers required by farms across the UK.
While this crackdown on immigration is a policy which delivers on the Conservatives’ manifesto pledge, farming organisations will have to use all their lobbying power to ensure Britain’s largest manufacturing sector does not suffer irreparable damage.
And finally: FG launched its Take the Lead campaign six years ago and we are pleased to see it is having an impact on dog walkers. We will continue to raise awareness of livestock worrying among the general public push for tougher laws.