The agriculture sector must be ready for the challenges it faces post Brexit warns Bidwells.

The next two years will be vital for the agriculture sector and it must do all it can to bump itself up the list of the Government's Brexit priorities, Jonathan Armitage, Head of Agribusiness at Bidwells' said.

Mr Armitage was speaking at the first of an annual series of Rural Breakfast Seminars hosted by Bidwells, which aims to cover a wide-range of issues and opportunities for agriculture, rural property and businesses.

During the seminar, held last week, Mr Armitage provided a review of the 2016 harvest which had been a record difficult year for many arable farmers, current commodity markets and took a look forward to the possibilities for post Brexit agriculture in the UK.

He highlighted the challenges at stake for the agriculture sector post Brexit, and said they fell into four categories: direct subsidy support, trade relations, labour and existing regulation.

He told the audience:

"So far the Government has sought to stabilise the situation by saying that existing subsidy arrangements would remain in place until 2020 – this will coincide with the end of the current multi annual financial framework.

"The longer term we can expect reduced levels of direct aid, but there are also some areas where we expect funding to continue such as for wildlife, landscape, helping with productivity, and dealing with volatility areas with particular hardship."

He said that the agriculture sector may not be as high on the government's Brexit priority list as it should be and so now was the crucial time to get it firmly on the agenda.

He continued: "There is a real concern that the need to come to an agreement on some areas of our trade arrangements may leave agricultural commodities at the bottom of the list."

And he said that although some hoped that an exit from the EU would bring less red tape, this is unlikely to be the case.

He said: "In terms of legislation it is likely that everything currently in place as a consequence of EU regulations will remain and then be picked at in due course, so the much-looked forward to bonfire of regulation is unlikely to materialise."

Bringing his talk to a close he said: "Brexit is likely to result in an increased exposure to markets, reduced subsidy support and continued regulation.

"It will also mean a rapid drive for efficiencies; this inevitably will mean an increase in the pace of consolidation across most sectors and a concentration of environmental effort in areas where food production economics are more marginal.

"But there will be opportunities for the progressive farmers and also for the imaginative thinking around land use and releasing the value of environmental management.
"It is going to be hard work and there is much to do in our sector to ensure we are on the government's Brexit priority list – but with this can come opportunities as well."

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