Brexit uncertainty and a lack of Government grants are preventing farmers from investing and contributing to a drop in agricultural productivity, an industry body has warned.
Veronica Waller, senior project manager at the Farmer Network, a not-for-profit company which provides support to farmers across Cumbria, said she was ‘very concerned’ about the Agriculture Bill, which has been on pause since November while the Government attempted to get the EU Withdrawal Agreement through Parliament.
Speaking at a Westminster Food and Nutrition Forum event on Tuesday (June 18), Ms Waller said: “I think we may look back at this time – 2019 and 2020 – and see a fall down in productivity because of uncertainty and nervousness over investing. Investing is so important for productivity.
“Availability of capital [is another issue]. There are currently no diversification grants in my area and there are no farm productivity grants out there.
“There is a short-term lack of funding for productivity and diversification.”
Susan Twining, chief land use policy adviser at the CLA, told Farmers Guardian the political uncertainty was also making it difficult to impress upon farmers the need to change their business models to cope with Brexit.
“We are finding with our members, no matter how much information we put out there, they are treating this as something which is happening in the future,” she said.
“There is nothing concrete coming out of Defra, so the significance of what is coming along has not really hit home. The political situation does not help, because people will be thinking it is not really happening.
“I think some really strong messages coming out of Defra would help.”
Dave Freeman, policy manager at the Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC), who was also speaking at the conference, suggested the Government should be making better use of existing advisory networks of contractors, vets, accountants, solicitors and agents to get important messages about the Brexit transition out to farmers.
“That is a body of people who have quite a lot of ability to influence farm decision-making, but also have a unique ability to be able to impart new knowledge to farmers in a way which is built on a relationship,” he said.