Today (Thursday 6th September), the Home Secretary along with the Secretary of State for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs announced that their departments were planning to implement a nationwide pilot to bring non-EU migrant workers to UK farms.

Commencing in early 2019, the pilot will mean that fruit and vegetable farmers are able to employ migrant workers for seasonal work for up to six months. The programme will allow for the temporary introduction of 2,500 non-EU workers in order to assist with the harvesting of soft fruit and vegetables during peak production times.

The pilot will run until the end of December 2020 and will be monitored closely by the Home Office and the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs.

Countryside Alliance Political Relations Manager, James Somerville-Meikle, commented: “We are pleased the Government has recognised the need for a new seasonal agricultural workers scheme which we have been calling for since the decision to leave the EU was taken in June 2016.

“Unfortunately, what the Government has produced will be too little too late for many sectors of the rural economy. We are disappointed that the proposed new scheme will be limited to fruit and vegetable farmers, which will mean other sectors such as forestry and game farming will not be able to benefit from the provisions.

“By the time the pilot scheme is introduced in April 2019, the UK will have left the EU and there is still no certainty on our future relationship. The 2,500 workers that will be allowed to enter the UK as part of this scheme provides little in the way of reassurance when UK farmers and producers employ approximately 80,000 seasonal workers every year.”