INDUSTRY leaders have had their say on the future of farming in post-Brexit Britain.

Although the UK’s membership with the EU ended on January 31, farmers and organisations continue to question what rules and regulations will remain.

Managing director of Hexham Mart, Robert Addison said the current transition period presents uncertain times for UK farmers.

“The fact that we know for certain that we’re leaving the EU there’s bound to be a direct impact on our business.

“The sheep sector is an unknown area. Europe has taken a huge amount of sheep in the past and we hope they will continue to do so.”

But, for the majority of farmers, the UK exiting the EU on January 31 was a relief, Robert said.

“There’s been three years of uncertainty, but now everyone has an answer to what’s going to happen and what the future looks like.

“Agricultural subsidy systems will change and there won’t be many winners, but also not many losers.”

NFU North-East regional director, Adam Bedford, said future trade deals with the EU aren’t the only uncertain issue.

“There is a fair amount of head scratching going on in farming circles – whether that’s surveying what impact the wet weather could have on harvest 2020 or pondering the trading conditions for this year’s lamb crop,” he said.

“Marry all of this with the agricultural, environmental and trade policy changes brewing and it’s clear that 2020 is the year that things really start to happen.

“We also have a new government, a new cabinet and George Eustace, the new Secretary of State at Defra. Top of the to-do list for Mr Eustace is the passage of the Agriculture Bill.

“The Bill, paving the way as it does for a seven year transition period away from direct support to reward environmental delivery, is a huge moment for the farming sector.”

“2020 is the year when changes start to happen, and it’s happening now via your elected MPs in Westminster.

“The NFU is banging the drum for the importance of a thriving farming, food and rural sector, and I urge you to do the same.”

The National Sheep Association has called on the government to ensure stability in agriculture in the short term in order to assure the future of rural communities remains bright.

It added that it’s necessary a trade deal with the EU, or other equally sized markets, is in place by the end of the year.

The association’s chief executive, Phil Stocker, said: “As we take this step as a country, it’s absolutely vital care is taken to protect agriculture in the UK and recognise it for the vibrant and vital industry it is.

“The UK grows some of the highest quality food in the world, something our farmers are extremely proud to produce.

“Our sheep farmers have an excellent record for delivering healthy nutritious delicious food raised using environmentally sustainable methods.”

The association said it recognises the vast potential for UK produce in new trade deal, but is calling for assurances that the industry won’t be put under pressure to compete domestically with lower standard produce.

“Sacrificing the high-quality British standards to allow lower-quality produce into the UK is absolutely unacceptable,” Mr Stocker explained.

“Forcing British farmers to compete with food produced at a lower standard and quality will undermine UK agriculture and leave our farmers in an untenable position.”