Immigration rules will ‘severely impact farming sector’ - NFU

National Farmer's Union president Minette Batters. Photograph: Sonya Duncan

National Farmer's Union president Minette Batters. Photograph: Sonya Duncan /Archant. - Credit: Sonya Duncan

Changes to the immigration rules will 'severely impact the farming sector' if visas for lower-skilled workers are limited, the National Farmer's Union (NFU) has claimed.

According to the NFU president Minette Batters, the government is showing "failure to recognise" the needs of the British and farming industry. Mrs Batters said: "As the UK's largest manufacturing sector, British food and farming is at the very core of our economy and any immigration policy must deliver for its needs.

"We have said repeatedly that for farm businesses it is about having the full range of skills needed - from pickers and packers to meat processors and vets - if we are to continue to deliver high quality, affordable food for the public.

"Failure to provide an entry route for these jobs will severely impact the farming sector.

"There are also some jobs that simply cannot be replaced by technology."

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Batters said the expansion of the seasonal workers pilot scheme- which gives fruit and vegetable farmers access to a bigger pool of staff to help pick this year's harvest - would ease "some pressure" in the coming season but "growers remain very concerned about how they will recruit vitally important seasonal workers in future.

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"It is ironic that the government on the one hand is encouraging more people to increase the amount of fruit and veg in diets, yet on the other hand making it harder for that fruit and veg to be produced in Britain.

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"There are several issues within this proposed policy that need addressing, not least the incredibly short timeframe given for businesses to prepare, and we will be contributing to any consultation to ensure the views of Britain's farmers are heard."

Environment secretary George Eustice said: "The farmers and growers I've spoken to have made a powerful case for needing more workers during the coming busy months.

"Expanding our seasonal workers pilot will help our farms with the labour they need for this summer's harvest, while allowing us to test our future approach further.

"We will always back our farmers and growers, who produce world-famous British food to some of the highest standards anywhere in the world."

The government claimed its scheme working with eight countries will continue to see 20,000 young people coming to the UK each year.

And the EU Settlement Scheme will ensure some EU citizens can stay living and working in the UK after Brexit.

These other options will give employers more flexibility but they are expected to take "other measures to address shortages", according to a policy paper on the plans.

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