Reducing access to migrant labour for farming, horticulture and tourism jobs will have devastating consequences for the rural economy, according to the CLA.
The organisation, which represents around 30,000 landowners, farmers and rural businesses, made the comment in a submission to the Migration Advisory Committee consultation looking at the UK’s immigration system after Britain leaves the European Union.
CLA Senior Economist Dr Charles Trotman said: “Workers from the EU and beyond play a crucial role in the rural economy. In agriculture alone more than 30,000 permanent workers and an estimated 80,000 seasonal workers help keep our shops and market stalls stocked with UK produce.
“But the sector is already struggling to meet labour needs. A survey of CLA members showed that restricting access to migrant workers would negatively impact the profitability, efficiency and viability of more than three quarters of rural businesses.”
The CLA says farmers will fail to produce enough food tofeed the nation without access to migrant workers post-Brexitand called on the Governmentto introduce a Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme immediately rather than after leaving the EU to ensure continued access to askilled and secure workforce.
Dr Trotman said: “Farms and other rural businesses need to know that after Brexit there will still be a flexible, skilled and secure workforce so they can plan for the future and invest in their businesses.
“Without the certainty of access to this vital labour force, we will see reduced productivity and growth and an increase in food imports and prices.”