In a speech to the Norfolk Farming Conference, NFU president Minette Batters outlined the need to recognise the strategic importance of food production to the nation.
She said: “The pressure is now very much on Parliament to agree some sort of deal with less than 50 days to go before the UK leaves the EU.
“Ever since the Brexit process started the NFU has been absolutely clear that no-deal would be catastrophic for our industry. It really is the worst possible outcome for UK farmers.
“As I’ve said time and time again, crashing out could lead to an effective trade embargo on the export of animals and animal products to the EU, causing huge disruption. The government could choose to unilaterally lower import tariffs on food leading to our market being open to imports of food produced to much lower standards than those upheld by our own farmers here.”
Mrs Batters continued: “Any deal that is finally ratified by Parliament will be assessed against our six key principles agreed by NFU Council last December. These include vital measures for our sector such as ensuring free and frictionless trade with our biggest trading partner, maintaining access to the seasonal and permanent workforce required by the UK food chain and implementing a new domestic policy that supports food producers.
“At the same time, our challenge and focus is to continue to engage with MPs to ensure the new Agriculture Bill delivers for British farmers. It will be first time in 40 years that the UK Government will have direct responsibility for the nation’s food security.”
Mrs Batters said the Bill must provide a framework in which government can support farmers as custodians of the countryside and as producers safe, traceable and affordable food for the nation.
“We need clear and cast-iron commitments from this Government on how they plan to back British food and farming,” she added.