CLA: Farmers need migrant labour to feed the nation

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Farmers in Lincolnshire could struggle to find labour if migrant workers are excluded from vital jobs across the rural economy, the CLA has said.

Lincolnshire produces about 40% of England’s bulb and flower crops and nearly 30% of its vegetables and salads and is also one of the biggest employers of migrant workers.

The organisation which represents landowners, farmers and rural businesses told the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Efra) Select Committee inquiry on February 22 that the sector would face reduced production and growth, which could lead to increased food imports and prices if access to migrant labour is closed down post-Brexit.

CLA deputy president Tim Breitmeyer said: “Farms and other rural businesses need to know that after Brexit there will still be a flexible, skilled and secure workforce so they can plan for the future and invest in their business.

“The rural economy is already at risk due to labour shortage. We need certainty that a new seasonal agricultural workers scheme will be introduced immediately and not after the UK leaves the EU.”

Mr Breitmeyer said a new scheme should allow migrants of both EU and non-EU countries to enter the UK for a set period of time and for a specific job vital to the needs of the rural economy but with no right to remain after their contract finishes.

He said: “Similar schemes have worked well in the past and will help farmers to keep producing the food we eat, to run viable businesses, and to continue creating job opportunities year in and year out.”

The CLA deputy president also called for the government to confirm the status of EU migrant workers in sectors such as food production, horticulture and tourism already resident in the UK and to provide a clear framework for allowing skilled workers to enter the UK labour market, with the potential to remain permanently where there is a defined need for labour.