Published: 00:02, 07 March 2016
| Updated: 10:40, 07 March 2016
Farmers in the county are narrowly in favour of leaving the EU on the basis of a straw poll taken at a meeting where the issue of the referendum was discussed.
About 150 farmers attended a meeting to hear the arguments for and against Brexit, in a debate organised by the BTF Partnership at the Kent Showground.
The event heard from Stuart Agnew MEP, who set out the case to leave the EU, and Kevin Attwood, farmer and chair of the Kent County Show, who set out the case to stay.
They were joined by a panel of experts including Mike Bax of BTF Partnership, Sarah Calcutt of Partners in Produce, Marsha Marriner of Whitehead Monckton, Jon Drew of AMC PLC and Hugh Summerfield of Wilkins Kennedy.
The issue of financial support for farmers and the arrangements that would be in place for replacing CAP payments attracted significant attention. A Brexit would create uncertainty for farmers over CAP subsidies.
Despite this, in a poll after the debate, 57% of those present backed leaving the EU.
Many Kent farmers rely on seasonal migrant labour to help them, particularly to pick fruit during the summer.
Most of these jobs are now done by Eastern European workers.
Mike Bax, partner at BTF Partnership, said: “Those farmers that want to stay in the EU like the security of knowing what they are dealing with and whilst it isn’t perfect, they feel it generally works for them.
“However, there were a greater number as our poll showed who have just become fed up and want to see Britain make a break.
“Despite the many unknowns which for farmers could have a significant impact on their business, as around 40% of farm businesses rely on CAP payments to survive, they would rather see a Britain free of Europe.”