WITH Brexit finally upon us, the NSA is reminding the Government of the need to ensure stability in agriculture in the short term in order to assure the future of rural communities remains bright.

NSA chief executive Phil Stocker said: “As we take this step as a country, it’s absolutely vital care is taken to protect agriculture in the UK and recognise it for the vibrant and vital industry it is. The UK grows some of the highest quality food in the world, something our farmers are extremely proud to produce. Our sheep farmers have an excellent record for delivering healthy nutritious delicious food raised using environmentally sustainable methods.”

The NSA said it recognised the vast potential for the UK produce in new trade deals but called for assurances the industry would not be put under pressure to compete domestically with lower standard produce.

Mr Stocker said: “Sacrificing the high-quality British standards to allow lower-quality produce into the UK is absolutely unacceptable. Forcing British farmers to compete with food produced cheaply at a lower standard and quality will undermine UK agriculture and leave our farmers in an untenable position as consumers who aren’t familiar with why there is price disparity between imported produce and British produce may be drawn in by the cheaper price tags.”

Despite the calls for standards not to be compromised, the NSA does recognise the challenge ahead for a trade deal to be struck in time for December 31, 2020. Mr Stocker added: “The Prime Minister has been clear he isn’t prepared to extend the transition period any further than December. This leaves the very real challenge of negotiating our future relationship with the EU in just 11 months. However, it is necessary a trade deal with the EU, or other equally sized markets, are in place by the end of the year, so the sheep sector is not again facing the significant tariffs attached to trading on WTO rules.”

Looking further into the future at Government proposals for future farm support, the NSA was cautiously optimistic. Mr Stocker said: “In England, there is a real potential for the new ELM schemes, and NSA is pleased to see more recognition of food security in the most recent draft of the Agriculture Bill. This, alongside food security and recognition of British native breeds, is a very welcome change. However, its essential we allow enough time for proper testing, scrutiny and transition. We have welcomed the news of ring-fenced funding, but the direction for this funding has to come soon.”