WEEKEND WEB: We need a scheme for workers post Brexit

Stafford Proctor

STAFFORD PROCTOR discusses Lincolnshire agriculture in Word on the Ground.

Another extraordinary harvesting season is underway.

The dry spring and hopes of an early and dry grain harvest were dashed by rain and storms in early August. Grain was shed from the ears and the soils are now saturated, making autumn soil cultivations difficult.

Locally, most wheat is safely gathered in and potato and sugar beet harvest has begun.

The outcomes of the current Brexit negotiations will have a disproportionately greater significance to agriculture and horticulture than to other areas of the economy.

Our crop markets and labour resource have been inextricably entwined with Europe since 1945.

Lincolnshire is the UK’s main food production area and the greatest threat to our farming is the supply of labour to gather our crops in.

Farmers are expecting a tough Brexit – other European countries feel betrayed, spurned and hurt by the UK’s decision to leave the EU. We cannot expect any favours and the outcomes could be tough economically.

There is a strong local tradition of utilising imported labour for the mutual benefit of both parties.

In 1823, Irish navvies cut the river Nene; in 1881, navvies built the original docks at Sutton Bridge; 1917, German POWs built sea banks; 1940s, Italian POWs helped on the farms.

In the 1940s and 1950s we had Londoners; 1960s and 1970s Italians, Spanish and north Africans; 1980s and 1990s, Russians and Ukrainians and more recently workers from Eastern Europe. Immigration is part of our society.

Farmers need an agricultural workers scheme to allow this vital supply of labour to continue post Brexit.

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