UK farming to begin 'new era' in 2021, NFU president says

NFU President Minette Batters says there will be 'challenges to overcome' next year
NFU President Minette Batters says there will be 'challenges to overcome' next year

British farming is set to begin a 'new era' in 2021 as the UK leaves the Brexit transition period and implements a new agriculture policy for the first time in 70 years.

This is according to NFU President Minette Batters, who said in her new year message that 2020 was a 'year like no other' for British food producers.

"While we have all seen significant changes and challenges in the past 12 months, I would like to thank the public for their continued support for British farming and all it delivers; we simply wouldn’t be where we are today without it."

She added that the successful conclusion of a deal between the UK and EU was a 'very positive step forward', and it should 'provide comfort' to farmers and the public.

However, she said there would 'undoubtedly be challenges to overcome' as 2020 drew to a close, namely continued Covid-19 disruption coupled with 'extra costs and complexity' due to Brexit.

"It is important that government does all it can to prioritise exports of perishable agricultural products to make sure that this food is not left languishing in queues at the border when the changes take effect on 1 January," Mrs Batters said.

The new year also sees the government implement its own British agriculture policy for the first time in seven decades.

It will see a seismic shift in the way farming is supported, with renewed focus on sustainable agriculture and food production.

The NFU President said it was 'crucial' that the government worked with farmers to ensure the new Environmental Land Management scheme was 'fit for purpose'.

"I, like many of my farming members, work with our land to ensure we leave our farms in a better condition for the next generation."

Looking ahead to 2021 and beyond, one of the biggest challenges farmers will continue to face is climate change.

With the international climate change summit COP26 being hosted in the UK, Mrs Batters said "now was the time to truly demonstrate that we are committed to being global leaders in climate-friendly food."

She said: “There are thousands of examples out there now of farmers working sustainably, managing livestock pastures to absorb carbon, producing renewable energy and farming smarter to reduce emissions.

"There is no better time to show leadership in tackling one of the biggest threats to our planet and we stand ready to work with government to achieve our goals."

Concluding her new year message, Mrs Batters said there would 'undoubtedly be twists and turns' as the UK navigated its new life outside the EU.

But she said British farming’s desire to continue producing food produced to some of the highest standards in the world 'remained steadfast'.

"Not only do we want to be the number one supplier of choice domestically, but we also have a world-renowned reputation for quality food that can be at the forefront of the government’s Global Britain ambition.

"It’s crucial we all work together to ensure farming can thrive for generations to come and for the British public to continue to benefit from a safe, secure and sustainable supply of homegrown food.”