Speaking at an annual farming conference, Farm Business Update, Minette Batters told farmers that ‘Brexit can be a great opportunity’ for their industry, but only if it makes it voice heard in trade talks now.
Speaking shortly before her election as the first female president of the NFU, Ms Batters told her audience that agriculture risked being ‘the sacrificial lamb’ in Brexit talks unless farmers found their ‘collective voice’.
The annual event, organised by chartered accountants Duncan & Toplis and land agents Brown&Co, was attended by more than 200 farmers at Greetham Valley, near Oakham, and the Petwood Hotel, Woodhall Spa.
Ms Batters, a beef farmer from Wiltshire, now leads the NFU as the UK enters the final stages of Brexit trade talks.
Speaking last month, she told the audience about her immediate priorities.
Ms Batters said: “Farming starts the Brexit process from a really good place, but we must have a free and frictionless relationship with Europe.
“The European market is key to British agriculture, however we’ve hardly featured in those trade talks so far, and we need to.
“We must make sure that farming doesn’t end up as the sacrificial lamb for the financial services sector.”
Going on to talk about the Environment Minister Michael Gove’s plans for a Green Brexit, she was firm on her organisation’s commitment to keep standing up for farmers after the direct payment ends.
Ms Batters said: “You cannot go green if you’re farming in the red.
“Farmers do most of the work, take most of the risk but we’re one of the only sectors which can’t pass on rising costs.
“Our biggest challenge is trying to bring together the collective voice of the UK’s largest manufacturing sector.”