The Countryside Alliance has used the opportunity of a parliamentary inquiry into labour shortages on farms to call for a new seasonal agricultural workers scheme to be introduced before the UK leaves the EU in March 2019.

In written evidence to the House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee, the Countryside Alliance has stressed the importance of migrant labour to all sectors of the rural economy, including shooting and the game market. The EFRA Committee has re-opened their inquiry into labour constraints following continued reports of labour shortages across the agriculture and horticulture sectors.

The Countryside Alliance has highlighted the importance of the 80,000 seasonal workers who work in the agriculture and horticulture sectors every year, many of whom come from the EU. We have called for a new seasonal agricultural workers scheme to be introduced to enable farmers and rural businesses to have continued access to the EU labour market post Brexit. We have stressed that any new scheme must reflect the interests of sectors across the rural supply chain, including shooting and game market.

Sarah Lee, Head of Policy at the Countryside Alliance commented: “Whilst the Government must look at ways of reducing the need for migrant workers through improvements in technology and training the domestic workforce, there must be recognition of the immediate need for labour in the rural economy. Businesses from game rearing to fruit farming rely on seasonal workers and the Government must ensure that these businesses continue to have access to the EU labour market post Brexit. It is essential we have an immigration policy that reflects the needs and interests of business across the rural supply chain.”