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NPA spells out Brexit priorities to House of Lords inquiry

7th Feb 2017 / By Alistair Driver

The NPA has laid out its priorities on trade, access to labour and a future domestic farm policy in a submission to a House of Lords inquiry into Brexit.

Lords BrexitinquiryThe Lords EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee is one of a number of Parliamentary committees undertaking an inquiry into the implications for agriculture of the vote to leave the EU. 

In a detailed six-page submission, the NPA outlines its concerns and priorities in key policy areas and offers suggestions as to how the Government could help. 

    Trade

    On trade, the document, put together by policy services officer Lizzie Wilson, states: 

    "NPA seeks assurances the British pig industry will not be disadvantaged in any way during trade negotiations, particularly with regards to agreements on tariffs and trade barriers for imports and exports."

    It stresses that the pig sector can 'ill afford to be undermined by cheaper, welfare inferior imports resulting from free trade'.

    "Examples of illegal practices outside the UK include use of Ractopamine, antibiotics for growth promotion, weaning at 3 weeks of age or less (as per USA, Canada and Brazil) and sow stalls outside of the EU, all of which would competitively disadvantage domestic pig producers," it says.

    Labour 

    It highlightes the findings from an NPA online survey on EU migrant labour indicating that one in five farms and businesses connected to the pig industry would struggle to survive without migrant labour. The survey showed 58 per cent of businesses employed at least one migrant worker, with 9 per cent employing between 11 and 50 and 2 per cent more than 50.

    The document NPA warns any restriction on the movement of people into the UK preventing access to the necessary labour required 'will negatively impact the industry'.

    Incentivising welfare

    And on Farming Minister George Eustice's plans for a farm policy that incentivises higher welfare livestock production systems, the document insists such a scheme must not 'not unfairly disadvantage certain farmers'.

    The NPA also wants to be involved in discussions to ensure it does not clash with 'the desire of Government and the entire supply chain to drive efficiency and productivity whilst reducing antibiotic use'.

    The NPA's eight key asks are: 

    1. The NPA, together with other sectors of UK agriculture, continue to stress that tariff-free access to the Single Market must be a priority for the Government.
    2. We also seek assurances that if tariffs are imposed on UK pork exports, there will be equivalent tariffs imposed on EU imports to the UK. 
    3. We urge pork to be categorised as a ‘sensitive product’ during free trade negotiations.  
    4. The pig sector is heavily reliant on permanent un-skilled migrant labour to work on our farms and in our processing plants.  Government must ensure that Europeans wanting to come to work in the UK are not prevented from doing so because of complicated application processes or delays to Visa processing.  Those already working here must be reassured that they are welcome to stay.
    5. We believe that Defra should dedicate the same resource and effort into keeping animal disease out as extending export markets, as ultimately the two are intrinsically linked.  We need better border controls and stricter penalties for those caught illegally importing meat.
    6. We are aware that Defra intends to develop a robust Domestic Agriculture Policy with a particular drive towards ‘higher welfare’ systems and tiering of such.  We need Defra to involve the National Pig Association in these key discussions to ensure that the outcome is one that will benefit our industry and fulfils the government ambition in developing a strong British brand.  
    7. In order to help us do this, we need support and funding to incentivise farmers to produce pork to a standard that the current market demands but does not/will not currently pay for, such as straw based production and indoor free farrowing.  We need to ensure our pig farmers have access to modern production facilities that deliver good animal welfare and are efficient, productive, hygienic and reduce reliance on antibiotic use.
    8. Grant funding or tax relief/support (similar to the Agricultural Buildings Allowance) is also required to help with the necessary reinvestment in new buildings, equipment and infrastructure to help us achieve a progressive,  well equipped,  modern pig sector that the British public can be proud of.  We would like a commitment from the Treasury that they will explore options for tax relief for new pig buildings.

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