The National Farmers Union president Minette Batters has called on the government to consider the specific skill sets that are needed for each industry to thrive, rather than focusing on the level of skill.

Ms Batters’ call comes after the government released its White Paper on immigration last month, with a focus on high-skilled workers, both within and outside of the European Union, who can guarantee a threshold of a wage of £30,000 per year.

The NFU fears this will exacerbate the issues farming has had in finding workers, and Ms Batters also highlighted the big impact that changes to this system would have on businesses that rely on workers from overseas.

She said: “It is vital that a sufficient transition period is put in place to enable food-producing businesses around Britain to adapt to these changes.

“We welcome the fact that the government intends to engage with the farming sector over the next 12 months and we hope to make vital improvements to these proposals.

“The new immigration policy must reflect the economic importance of the food and farming industry to Britain, and a system must be developed that serves sectors of the economy based on need rather than misleading measures such as skill levels.”

The NFU added that the proposed new migration system, due to start in autumn 2020, places an emphasis on so-called ‘high-skilled’ workers, which is concerning for farmers and growers who rely on access to a full range of skill sets to fill the roles required within the industry.

Currently this includes many overseas workers, and that is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future.

Many roles within the sector are highly technical and specialised, but would not necessarily be classified as ‘high-skilled’ if based on narrow criteria such as salary or qualifications.

Farm businesses are already struggling to recruit and retain staff and it is thought that the proposals in this White Paper will only exacerbate this situation further.

Alongside the proposed single skills system, the government intends to put in place a ‘time-limited route’ for temporary, short-term workers, which means that, for a transitional period only, people will be able to enter the country for a year.

“After the 12-month visa expires, there would then be a ‘cooling-off’ period of 12 months to prevent those who travel under this visa becoming permanently based in the UK.

n Head to www.nfuonline for a full report on the White Paper.