The CLA has warned setting an ‘arbitrary’ minimum salary threshold for migrant workers after Brexit will put agri-food jobs in the UK at risk.
The group’s president, Tim Breitmeyer, sounded the alarm as the Government’s long-awaited Immigration White Paper was published.
The document’s release followed a report from the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), which made a number of recommendations on how a post-Brexit immigration policy should work.
One of those recommendations was to bar anyone from entering the country who would earn under £30,000, but Ministers have decided to consult on this threshold.
Mr Breitmeyer said: “A secure and sufficient supply of migrant labour is vital to rural businesses once the UK leaves the EU to boost growth and productivity.
“Imposing an arbitrary minimum salary threshold puts at risk a variety of jobs across the agri-food sector, including some which require specialist skills.
“These are vital roles which are critical to the success of the rural economy, but have traditionally not attracted interest from UK nationals seeking work.
“Restricting this critical supply of labour will jeopardise the future viability of many rural businesses.”
Other MAC recommendations which were accepted by the Government include introducing an agricultural minimum wage for seasonal workers to ‘ensure upward pressure’ on pay.
Ministers also agreed not to introduce a specific migration route for ‘low-skilled’ workers – a definition which covers agricultural employment and jobs in other areas of the food chain, such as abattoirs.
As a temporary measure, such workers will still be able to access the UK on 12-month visas until 2025, but they will not be able to access public funds, bring dependants or have a right to extend their stay.
The MAC has now been tasked with reviewing the Shortage Occupation List (SOL), with a report due in spring 2019.
The former president of the British Veterinary Association has previously called for vets to be added to the SOL on Farmers Guardian’s Brexit hub to ensure there is enough capacity to deal with an expected increase in food certification for trade purposes after Brexit.