The Countryside Alliance has called for a new immigration policy to reflect the needs of all businesses in the rural economy, including a new seasonal workers scheme to ensure that businesses have access to labour they require at important times of the year.

In written evidence submitted to the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), the body tasked by the Government to provide advice on a new immigration policy outside of the EU, the Countryside Alliance stressed the importance of EU workers to the food and farming industry, and related sectors such as game farming and forestry.

Shooting industry estimates indicate that the game rearing sector in the UK is 60 per cent dependent on migrant labour from the EU, similar to the poultry sector. Access to a seasonal labour force is also essential in many parts of the forestry sector such as nurseries, planting squads and sawmills. These sectors are vitally important to the rural economy and the communities they support, and we have encouraged the MAC to ensure the needs of these sectors are taken into consideration when it reports to the Government in September 2018.

We have stressed the need for distinct policy recommendations for seasonal workers, recognising that this a separate form of migration, which should be excluded from net migration figures. We have also encouraged the MAC to produce an interim report on seasonal workers, encouraging the Government to introduce a new Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme or equivalent scheme before March 2019 to provide certainty to rural businesses.

Commenting on the MAC submission, Head of Policy, Sarah Lee commented: “Leaving the EU provides the opportunity to design and implement a new immigration policy which is appropriate to the interests of our economy and society. It is vital that the needs of all businesses in the rural economy are considered from food and farming, to game rearing, and forestry. Many of these businesses depend on labour from the EU, particular at busy times of the year to fill short term roles. Whilst it is right that we train and encourage our own workforce, we must not forget that these are often labour intensive industries and there will be a need to recruit workers from Europe and beyond for the foreseeable future”.