The NFU has hit back against the Migration Advisory Committee after it left out agriculture on a list of jobs in short supply that need to be filled after Brexit.
Minette Batters described MAC’s omission as “staggering” after its Shortage Occupation List included roles such as dance choreographers and artists, while ignoring the decline in agricultural applicants from all skill levels.
MAC’s findings come despite stating in the report that the highest number of respondents to their survey came from agriculture, alongside healthcare.
The NFU say it provided “a range of critical jobs that many non-UK workers perform on farms at all skill levels”, and blamed the MAC of conducting poorley arranged consultations.
NFU President Minette Batters said: “The NFU is staggered that farming has been ignored in this way and that the MAC has failed to recognise the needs of our industry, and the implications for shoppers wanting to continue to buy affordable high quality British food.
“The consultation was poorly managed, with events arranged at just 48 hours’ notice. These events were supposed to gather evidence on those occupations in shortage across all skill levels highlighting the need for experience, aptitude and knowledge.”
The MAC report restricted itself to shortages in skilled positions, for which they do not include seasonal agricultural workers. For skilled agricultural positions they said there was not enough evidence to conclude that Brexit would have an impact.
“Overall we don’t feel we have the evidence to assess whether management roles in agriculture are facing particular shortages, and if they are whether migration is the solution for alleviating those shortages,” MAC stated.
“We are aware that the NFU are planning to survey their members in 2019 to get a better understanding of the sector’s workforce characteristics and dynamics. We would urge the NFU to use this as an opportunity to clarify the pressures facing occupations at all skill levels.”
Last week the NFU launched a campaign urging constituents to write to their MP to back an expansion of Seasonal Workers Pilot Scheme, which starts this year, with a quota of 2,500 non EU workers. The NFU want that number to rise to 10,000, and become permanent.
“In a post-Brexit world, access to overseas workers may be restricted. If we can’t get some of these permanent roles on the shortage occupation list, we will be limited purely to UK-based workers to fill those jobs when we know, with the country at near full employment, the numbers are just not there,” Batters said.
“There are still options available to us through the new immigration policy the Home Office is designing, and the NFU will continue to campaign to raise awareness of these issues with MPs.
“We urge Government to look carefully at these recommendations and add the roles we desperately need so the critical jobs that many non-UK workers perform on our farms at all skill levels are accounted for.”