Herefordshire’s largest industry is facing an uncertain future and could lose a large ‘chunk’ of its farmers in the next few years.

That is the concern of Herefordshire National Farmers’ Union chairman Bill Quan, who is working with the union to safeguard the industry and champion all it delivers in terms of food, to our economy, communities and environment.

Herefordshire’s diverse agriculture industry produces some of the best quality produce in the country, including enough apples for 700 million pints of cider each year, and is at the forefront of diversification and innovation.

But Mr Quan says the next few years are likely to be ‘messy’ because of the challenges of seasonal labour, quality standards and changes to the ways our farms are economically supported.

One of his key messages is that people in the county need to reconnect more with the industry and the way their food is produced so that they can understand that ‘good quality food comes at a price.’

That’s why the NFU are supporters of the Three Counties Farmer annual awards, because they help to educate the public about the industry, highlight best practice and showcase stand-out businesses.

The NFU is currently campaigning to ensure post-Brexit trade deals do not allow cheap food produced to lower standards – like hormone-fed beef and the notorious chlorine-washed chicken – into Britain.

Mr Quan said: “If food arrives here that would be illegal for British farmers to produce because of our quality standards then it just won’t work, some farms may go out of business.

“The Avara poultry plant in Hereford is just one of our larger employers and they and others are part of the success story that is our farming and food sector – it is the largest we have nationally, contributing around 120 billion to the economy and supporting millions of jobs.”

Battle over food standards

Mr Quan is encouraged that more than one million people have signed the NFU’s petition against Britain reducing food quality standards in any US trade deal, but that is only one of the challenges facing farmers and growers at present.

Seasonal labour is another - these workers are essential to help pick fruit and vegetables each year and while the industry does employ British and has reached out due to COVID-19, the labour gap is large; there is a need for skilled workers from abroad and the issue needs resolving as a priority.

Mr Quan also fears current Government plans to replace EU subsidy will involve asking Herefordshire farmers to do more for less, something that has the potential to put them at a disadvantage when others abroad are not producing to the same regulations or controls.

He fears that if Britain does not get these policies right then ‘we could lose a good chunk of our farmers, especially in livestock, and the tenanted sector could be decimated’.

“I think it’s going to be challenging for a while,” he said.

“Herefordshire is a county of mixed farming and its many small farms means it’s vulnerable.

There is a lot of uncertainty

“The union is working for its members but with Brexit and COVID-19 there is a lot of uncertainty.

“The average age of farmers is about 60 and because many are uncertain about the future they are sitting on their assets.”

The county provides a vast range of high quality produce after years of innovation and creativity.

It has major producers such as Avara, Westons Cider, Heineken (Bulmers) and Wye Valley Produce to name just some as well as a plethora of artisan food and drink enterprises.

As long as shoppers continue to demand high standards and high quality then Herefordshire farmers are well placed to supply what they want.

And the Three Counties Farmer awards help to highlight just how good they are.

They take place in digital format – because of coronavirus - in November.

Entries are open now and to nominate just go to and fill out the online form.

Categories are: Sheep Farmer; Farm Conservation; Cattle Farmer; Family Run Farm; Pig Farmer; Young Farmer (under 26); Arable Farmer; Farming Contractor; Fruit/hop farmer.