NFU president's new year message includes pledge to continue lobbying for more time to implement National Living Wage

NFU president Meurig Raymond has pledged to continue to lobby Government to allow farmers and growers more time to implement the National Living Wage, which comes into force in April 2016.

In his new year message he also urged Defra to scrap the Employers' National Insurance contributions for seasonal workers where labour costs can be as high as 60 per cent of turnover.

Raymond shared his priorities for the farming sector for 2016 and urged all levels of the government and food supply chain to play their parts in backing British farming.

He said: "I won't shy away from saying how tough this year has been for farming. We've experienced a very difficult cash flow crisis within the industry and recovery may be some time off.

"But this dark cloud had many silver linings; the NFU, with its members, has made some substantial steps forward this year with many achievements benefitting the agri-food industry as a whole. The Chancellor's announcement to allow farmers up to five years tax averaging and the Annual Investment Allowance of £200,000 during his financial statement were important announcements for the farming industry. New legislation to tackle fly-grazing, the approval of our application for emergency use of neonicotinoid seed treatments and new regulations of tractor and trailer weights and speeds are just a few more examples of how we've made a difference. I'm determined to build on all our achievements as we enter what is set to be a very busy year for the farming industry.

"I know BPS payments and Countryside Stewardship will continue to be high on the list for us. I know how crucial these payments are to farmers and the difficulties delays bring. Lobbying Defra, Natural England and the RPA for improvements in delivery, guidance, IT and scheme administration so that they are fit for purpose is a major priority for the NFU. Similarly, the work with the likes of HMRC and the banks will continue in earnest in our efforts to alleviate financial pressures while there are delays.

"We will continue to lobby Government to allow our farmers and growers more time to implement the National Living Wage, which comes into force in April 2016. I urge Defra to scrap the Employers' National Insurance contributions for seasonal workers where labour costs can be as high as 60 per cent of turnover.

"Bovine TB remains a huge problem for beef and dairy farmers across large parts of the country. The success of this year's cull operations, in areas where the disease is rife, shows we are moving in the right direction. In 2016 we will keep pushing Defra for full implementation of the 25-year TB eradication strategy as quickly as possible; I still see the total human misery this disease causes for farmers and their businesses and the NFU remains dedicated to stopping the spread and ultimately eradicating this disease.

"The EU referendum is set to gather momentum this year, potentially impacting many industries, and farming is no exception. We know the EU's influence on farming is huge. And in the absence of answers to many of our questions, the NFU is committed to providing more information on the financial impact of being in or out in of Europe. It's vital we know the facts before casting the vote that could completely change the way our industry works.

"It's been a challenging year given the levels of volatility we've seen, both in markets and weather, and I know it's knocked the confidence of many farmers. Safeguarding farm businesses from the destructive effects of volatility is essential; the UK is going to be the most populous country in the EU by the mid-2040s, which is many more mouths to feed. We need action from government, in the EU and domestically, and all parts of the supply chain to enable a competitive, productive and profitable farming industry to supply this country with a safe, secure, affordable supply of British food.

"We're entering a critical time for British farmers and an increasingly challenging environment for food production. But I firmly believe that, with its bold and ambitious characteristics, the NFU will prove yet again how indispensable it is to farmers in 2016."


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