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Saturday, 31 December 2016

UK: Agricultural Policy Post-Brexit (BBC Radio 4, Farming Today); The Year Ahead

Farming Today This Week: Agricultural Policy Post-Brexit (listen, BBC iPlayer)

"Charlotte Smith hosts a panel of expert guests to discuss what a British Agricultural Policy might look like post-Brexit: They are Neil Parish MP, Chair of the Environment Food and Rural Affairs Committee; Caroline Drummond, Chief Executive of Linking Environment and Farming (LEAF); and Guy Smith, Vice Chair of the National Farmers Union".

One of the sector's main concerns seems to be continued access to seasonal migrant labour, in order to stay competitive, and to undertake some of the jobs the British don't want to do - working in abattoirs, animal TB testing, poultry plucking and processing, fresh fruit and vegetable picking and harvesting.

If seasonal migrant labour is not available, farming may be driven abroad, one speaker warns; strawberries could be sourced from a more competitive California (with access to seasonal migrant labour) rather than from Britain.

The farming industry seems to favour a 'soft' Brexit. I'm not a farmer or food producer (I did once have a student vacation job as a strawberry picker in Somerset, but made almost no pocket-money), and seldom think about the detailed policy problems; I suppose we all want ready access to affordable food. As a casual listener to the debate, I wish the reasons for supporting a soft Brexit and discussions around EU membership and Single Market dilemmas were more edifying than access to seasonal migrant labour to staff the abattoirs.

Update 4 January 2017

Migrant farm workers may stay after Brexit but red tape goes - BBC News - The environment secretary says she is "absolutely committed" to ensuring that British farmers have access to migrant workers after Brexit.

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