NFU deputy president Minette Batters said: "It is essential all MPs understand the profound effect the introduction of a living wage will have on UK farming, particularly for labour-intensive crops such as hand-picked fruit, vegetables, flowers and plants. We are not against the National Living Wage, but we are concerned that the speed of its implementation and lack of consultation will have a devastating impact on our industry."
The NFU's "key ask" of MPs was for growers to be exempted from paying employers National Insurance contributions for seasonal workers, she added. The NFU has also called for seasonal workers to be exempt from the now compulsory enrolment in a pension scheme.
Faversham and Mid-Kent MP Helen Whately, who led the event, said: "Since last summer's budget, the introduction of the National Living Wage has been a frequent conversation topic with local farmers. I have been pressing the Government to help farmers with the introduction of the living wage and did so again in Westminster this week by agreeing to sponsor the NFU's living wage event."
The introduction of the National Living Wage will increase the cost of seasonal wages for grower businesses by 35 per cent over the period 2016-21, the NFU has calculated.