Farmers' interests best served in EU, says NFU
Farmers' interests are best served by remaining in the European Union, the National Farmers' Union has concluded.
The organisation, which represents farmers across England and Wales, said it would not be actively campaigning in the referendum and would not tell its 55,000 members how to vote.
But a resolution passed by the NFU council has said that "on the balance of existing evidence available to us at present, the interests of farmers are best served by our continuing membership of the European Union".
The decision comes after the NFU commissioned a report into the impacts of Brexit on farming by Dutch university Wageningen.
The report found that in two of three scenarios modelled farm-gate prices could increase, boosting farming incomes but reducing consumption of products as they become more expensive.
In the third, a more liberalised trade approach would see farm-gate prices fall, benefiting consumers through lower prices but hitting farmers' incomes in many sectors, the report said.
The future for British farmers is heavily influenced by what the UK Government would do about subsidies currently paid through the European Union's "common agricultural policy" (CAP) and worth around £2.4 billion a year.
Brexit supporters insist support to UK farmers would continue in the event there is a vote to quit the EU, but farmers have raised concerns whether this would happen as the Government previously argued against direct payments through the CAP.
The NFU council, which represents members from each county and farming sector, looked at key issues including the implications for trade with the EU and wider world, the impacts of uncertainty following a leave vote and farming regulation.
The meeting assessed consequences for availability of labour, agricultural product approvals, farming science and research, the wider food chain and the risks of a national farm policy versus remaining with the CAP, before agreeing the resolution.
Farming Minister George Eustice, who unlike Environment Secretary Liz Truss supports Brexit, said: "Farmers are very divided over whether we should stay in the EU and the NFU are right to remain neutral and not to campaign.
"Their own recent study showed that, if we left the EU, there would be a firming in farm gate prices and a recovery in farm incomes.
"Virtually every problem that the NFU complain to me about is a direct consequence of dysfunctional EU law.
"Farmers who want to see change and a better future should vote to leave and take control so that ministers have the power to sort things out."