Wales politics

Brexit should drive 'new, bold ambition' for farmers

Farmer and sheep
Image caption Farmers are being asked to influence the direction of agriculture policy after Brexit

Brexit should drive a "new, bold ambition" for farmers, a union leader has said.

Meurig Raymond, president of the National Farmers' Union, said UK farmers could be globally competitive and played vital public roles.

The union has launched a month-long consultation of its members on the shape of post-Brexit farming policy.

Chancellor Philip Hammond has promised to maintain EU-levels of funding for farming at least until 2020.

Mr Raymond said: "The vote to leave the European Union means that food security must drive a new, bold ambition for UK farmers and growers.

"This is an historic opportunity the NFU is determined to seize."

He claimed farming was worth £108bn to the UK economy, and also played an important role in areas of public policy such as the environment, renewable energy, education, health and nutrition.

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Media captionMeurig Raymond says people want to see 'more British food on their plates'

"Brexit is also about building bridges, building the industry's influence," he added.

"The NFU's aim, once our members have spoken, is to provide a strong and united voice for the food and farming industry, to ensure that agriculture is seen as strategically and politically important in all future trade negotiations."

Union leaders will appeal directly to NFU members at a series of 50 roadshow meetings, ending on 14 September, designated as Back British Farming Day.

In July, Wales' Rural Affairs Secretary Lesley Griffiths said Brexit offered the chance for a "made-in-Wales" approach to farming, a policy area which is devolved.

Under the current EU Common Agricultural Policy, Wales receives approximately £250m per year in direct payments to farmers in addition to more than £500m between 2014-2020 to run a rural development programme.

Speaking at the Royal Welsh Show, Ms Griffiths said she expected some form of subsidy to continue, but was aware that many farmers supported leaving the EU because of "red tape".

On Monday she was holding a private meeting with officials from the Farmers' Union of Wales to discuss the importance of agriculture to the economy, as well as the impact of bovine TB.

Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies welcomed the NFU's consultation, along with the chancellor's promise on funding.

But he added: "Here in Wales farmers want reassurances from the Welsh Labour Government that the money will still find its way to farmers.

"Just last month, Labour MP Ian Lucas called for cuts to the money allocated to farmers and the Welsh Government must allay those concerns at the earliest opportunity."

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