AS the five-week General Election campaign begins to hot up, farming groups are pushing wannabe MPs to stand up for the countryside if elected in June.
The NFU, CLA, Tenant Farmers Association (TFA), FUW and NFU Cymru have set out their requests of the next Government in a series of manifestos.
Making a success of Brexit was a priority for the five organisations, which all called for a ‘frictionless’ trade deal with the EU that maintained high welfare and environmental standards, continued access to labour, and a new agricultural policy which promotes productivity and resilience.
The NFU, TFA and FUW also called for a transitional period to stop farmers facing a ‘cliff edge’ after Brexit, while the CLA called for any new Government to commit to a ‘comprehensive review’ of all EU regulations.
The demands chimed with a new report from the House of Lords which said unfettered trade and a transitional deal were essential for the agri-food sector.
CLA president Ross Murray said: “Every candidate seeking selection to a rural constituency must understand why the countryside matters and rural communities will expect the next Government to face up to the big challenges, such as how to support farming and the environment once the UK is no longer part of the Common Agricultural Policy.”
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NFU president Meurig Raymond highlighted YouGov polling which showed 85 per cent of people thought it was important for Britain to have a productive and resilient farming industry.
The TFA and the FUW used their manifestos to call for a UK agricultural framework to be agreed with all the devolved nations to minimise competition and market distortion.
The FUW also said agricultural and rural development budgets should not be reduced after Brexit, and demanded funding be administered by the Welsh Government outside the Barnett Formula.
All the groups were keen on safeguarding short and fair supply chains, with the majority supporting an extension of the Groceries Code Adjudicator’s remit.
Other asks included rolling out universal 4G mobile coverage and broadband; clamping down on rural crime; putting science at the heart of policy making; relaxing the planning system to encourage more small-scale housing development and treating diversified rural businesses as a single business for tax purposes.
NFU Scotland’s manifesto was expected to be launched early next week.
With the Conservatives riding high in the latest polls, rumour has it the Prime Minister is preparing to axe a number of cabinet ministers after the election – including Defra Secretary Andrea Leadsom.