BRITAIN’S imminent departure from the EU has sparked great debate - not least among the local farming community.

Farming leaders have already called for any early commitment the industry will not be hit by the decision to leave the European Union.

Farmers benefit from more than £2 billion a year in subsidies from Europe’s Common Agricultural Policy, money which the Leave campaign promised to protect, as well as exporting large amounts of produce to the EU and hiring seasonal labour.

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) president Meurig Raymond said: “The vote to leave the European Union will inevitably lead to a period of uncertainty in a number of areas that are of vital importance to Britain’s farmers.

“The NFU will engage fully and constructively with the British government to construct new arrangements. This needs to happen as soon as possible.

“Our members will rightly want to know the impact on their businesses as a matter of urgency.

“We understand that the negotiations will take some time to deliver but it is vital that there is an early commitment to ensure British farming is not disadvantaged.

“It is vital that British farming is profitable and remains competitive, it is the bedrock of the food industry - Britain’s largest manufacturing sector,” he said.

Mr Raymond said farmers needed reassuring in the face of the political turbulence that was set to come.

He raised three key concerns, including access to the European market - to which 38 per cent of UK lamb and three million tonnes of grain were exported each year - and the fear that exports could be hit by tariffs being applied.

Farmers were also concerned about the availability of labour and the need for support levels to farmers to continue so they were not disadvantaged.

Dairy farmer Malcolm Fewster, who farms at his family’s farm - Listing Mill Farm in Gomersal - says he voted to leave mainly because of the principle of having a self-governing country and being able to make our own decisions.

But Malcolm says the decision for Britain to leave the EU may prove painful for some farmers who rely on agricultural subsidies.

“Europe is a massive advocate of agricultural subsidies with billions going into common agricultural policy, but we contribute far much more into the pot than we get back,” says Malcolm.

He says it is a ‘worrying time’ as they may receive a reduced subsidy, but he says Europe may have to reduce their subsidy due to us ‘propping it up.’

“As far as trade and things I think trade will be fine with Europe.

“I cannot see that they would cut their nose off to spite their face,” says Malcolm.

And he says that if the pound is depressed it could be good for export markets.

But he adds that he felt the referendum was a ‘sad carry on.’

Like many, Malcolm says he didn’t think it would be a ‘leave’ result and felt that there was a lot of emphasis on knocking the confidence of becoming self-governing.

“ If we had the confidence message for leave we wouldn’t have had the same collapse,” he says.

Mark Goodall, the fifth generation of dairy farmers at Goodalls farm in Tong village, believes it is too early to see how it will affect the farming industry.

“I don’t honestly know, and unfortunately we won’t find out until a month down the line. There is so much uncertainty.

“To be honest, I wasn’t sure which way to go because there was so much conflicting information. It was difficult to make a judgment on it and where we go from here is far from clear. It’s a bit daunting really.”

Nigel Pulling, chief executive of the Yorkshire Agricultural Society which was founded in 1837 to help improve and promote agriculture in the region, says the result came as a surprise to many.

He says the difficulty for farmers is the impact this will have on the direct payments they have been receiving from the EU.

“What the industry is calling for is a clear commitment we will continue with that to give them some certainty during this transitional period because for a lot of them this money is the difference between making a loss and a profit.

“But farmers are traditionally very resilient and they have coped with an awful lot of change already and they will adjust to the post Brexit vote - we all need to eat.

“We will be celebrating the best of British agriculture and will look to support the industry during this time,” he adds.