The news that the UK will be departing from the rest of the European Union may be two months old now, but the impacts that this will have on the livestock community is remaining a key focus point.
Representatives of the industry from all four UK farming unions met earlier in the week to discuss the potential affects Brexit will have on the beef and lamb sectors. Topics of discussion included access to the EU market, regulatory burden and an agricultural policy that delivers confidence.
All four unions came to a unanimous conclusion as to what the priorities were for the beef and lamb sectors.
“It is vital that the UK unions work closely throughout the Brexit process,” said National Farmers’ Union (NFU) Scotland livestock committee chairman Charlie Adam, who also farms in Aberdeenshire.
“We share many challenges and all want the best out of the situation for farmers. We are working on solutions for top three topics – trade, regulation and farm support.
“On trade, our livestock farmers, particularly sheep, need access to European markets to support our production and price while the quality of our beef merits trade arrangements that recognise existing and potential markets. We need to use Brexit as an opportunity to focus support and policy on those doing the farming and to see a move towards more sensible regulations and proportionate policing.”
NFU livestock chairman Charles Sercombe added that it is important that discussions continue to ensure that access to new international markets are secured.
“Agreements that allow access to the UK market must take into account the sensitive status of UK produced beef and lamb in future free trade of WTO [World Trade Organization] discussions.
“Like other farming sectors, access to non-UK labour is a key issue. We are acutely aware that the meat processing sector is reliant on a secure labour supply, and without it we could see costs rising in the supply chain and which would have a knock on effect to our ability to compete in a world market.”
Sercombe said that regulatory burdens remain a sensitive issue for livestock producers. “We recognise that any significant change could impact on our ability to trade within the single market. Therefore, our challenge to government is to ensure regulation is proportionate, is not ‘gold plated’ but encourages compliance.
“We want an agricultural policy that helps deliver long term food security, stability and confidence for the livestock sector that reflect geographical and devolved government differences.
“The UK livestock sector has an opportunity to come up with a template for a productive and profitable sector, this is the start of a new era and we want to be part of that discussion.”