As Brexit looms the president of the NFU has warned there are critical times ahead for the farming and food industry on which so much of Devon’s economy depends.

The agri-food industry alone is worth more than £600 million to the county and employs around 32,000 people. When related sectors like retailing and accommodation are included the industry is worth £1.1 billion and employing 79,000 people. In addition, farmers have a central role in maintaining the landscape which the millions of tourists who visit Devon every year come to admire, so a successful agricultural industry is crucial to the county’s future.

Speaking ahead of the Devon County Show Minette Batters said that the proposals which emerged from Defra’s consultation on the future of domestic agricultural policy after Brexit, which has just closed, are key to the future of agriculture.

She said: “We have a unique opportunity to put in place the foundations that will deliver a sustainable, profitable and progressive farming and horticulture sector, but central to this is recognition that farmers must be at the centre of designing and delivering reform, and a willingness from government to build on the experience of practical farmers.”

“We are concerned that the proposals outlined by the government are not always clear and are at times contradictory, and there is an inherent tension between the government’s international trading objectives and the demands of domestic industry.”

In its submission, the NFU emphasised the three ‘cornerstones’ it believes should be central to the future of farm policy: promoting productivity, providing fair rewards for environmental delivery and managing volatility.

“With a level playing field and a positive operating environment from government, agriculture can deliver much greater returns to the economy and society in the future.

“The future for farming must be at the heart of a dynamic and resilient UK food chain, giving people the opportunity to enjoy more sustainable, quality, affordable British food.”