HAMPSHIRE National Farmers’ Union (NFU) chairman Jamie Butler is urging all levels of government and the food supply chain to back British farming.

Mr Butler, a dairy farmer from East Meon, near Petersfield, said:”Across all sectors, 2015 was a tough year for farming and recovery may be some way off. But we have to focus on the future.

“The UK will become the most populous country in the EU by the mid-2040s, with many more mouths to feed. So we need action from the EU, our own government and the supply chain to enable a competitive and profitable farming industry. This will assure the nation of a safe, secure and affordable supply of British food now and in years to come.”

Mr Butler explained that the NFU was “right behind the Government’s food and farming growth plan and its agri-tech strategy to boost UK production and reverse the long-term decline in self-sufficiency”.

In the short term, the NFU has urged banks to help farmers who have been experiencing cash flow problems, caused by low commodity prices and, latterly, the late arrival of farm support payments.

“Farmers can now use five-year tax averaging and the annual investment allowance of £200,000,” said Mr Butler, adding that Chancellor George Osborne had announced these as a direct result of NFU lobbying.

Another bonus will be new regulations for tractor and trailer weights and speeds negotiated by the NFU, he said.

Mr Butler encouraged NFU members to read its EU referendum document, UK Farming’s Relationship with the EU.

He said: “All our members should know the facts before casting the vote that could completely change the way our industry works. The NFU has not taken a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ stance but it is providing information on the financial impact of being in or out in of Europe.”

The NFU is lobbying Defra and government agencies to improve the delivery and administration of basic payment scheme payments and the green farming scheme, countryside stewardship.

“The NFU will also continue to press government to implement its 25-year eradication plan for bovine TB,” said Mr Butler.

“In the absence of a licensed cattle vaccine, this disease remains a huge problem for dairy and beef farmers, particularly in the west of England, and it is an ever present threat to historically disease-free areas.”