Now that Article 50 has been triggered the process of negotiating our exit from Europe and our future relationship with it begins, but even this is not to be a smooth process as it is clear that the EU wants to deal with the exit issues before discussing the future, whereas our own Prime Minister, Theresa May, would like to negotiate both the exit terms and future relationship at the same time.
However, whatever order it is taken in, the most important factor for our Agricultural Sector is that they negotiate a future relationship which allows them to continue to thrive. A recent study on the Contributions of UK Agriculture highlighted a number of key points which clearly underline the importance of the sector, and its contribution to the nation as a whole. Some of the most interesting findings are as follows:
- For the first time the total contribution of agriculture to the UK economy and society has been calculated, this showed that farming had a positive return on investment. As during 2015 faming was worth, at a minimum, 7.4 times the support it received via direct payments plus the carbon costs and external soil costs for soil, air and water resources of UK domestic food production.
- Agriculture contributed around £24 billion of revenues and £8.5 billion of gross value added to the UK economy, it employees 475,000 directly and supports a further 30,000 through procurement activity. Establishing it as a significant factor in the UK’s economy.
- Farming provides 61% of raw materials for the wider UK agri-food industry which is worth £108 billion in gross added value and provides over 3.7 million jobs. So farming is an essential link in the chain to ensure the future of this industry.
- Farming manages over 70% of the UK’s land area, where farmers are responsible for managing both important landscape features and the habitats for wildlife. This service is estimated to be worth £672 million each year. Also UK’s farmed landscape also provides recreational opportunities enjoyed by millions and helps to attract overseas visitors.
- Farmland also has a positive environmental role by acting as a carbon sink, this service is estimated to be worth around £514 million each year. Also in recent years UK agriculture has managed to increase food production whilst decreasing its environment impact, which surely must be a plus when our focus is now so clear on our environment and creating sustainability.
- Whether you are a supporter of renewable energies or not, the fact is that 10% of overall UK electricity generation now comes from renewable technologies sited on agricultural land, which is a valuable contribution to a commodity under pressure to meet increasing demand.
These facts certainly help to underline what a vital role agriculture has in our economy and society, the full report can be read at http://www.nfuonline.com/assets/93419. Let’s hope these figures prompt the politicians to remember what a significant contribution agriculture has to our nation when they are negotiating our future trading relationship with Europe, which will be critical to our farmers.