THERE “shouldn’t be a problem” with food supply after Brexit, Michael Gove has told farmers – as their union insists “now is the time” for answers.

Pressed on potential import problems at the Oxford Farming Conference, Gove said: “We are doing everything possible to ensure that when it comes imports both of food and veterinary medicines that we can maintain continuity as effectively as possible.

“We’ve taken steps to ensure a continuity approach. There shouldn’t be a problem with food coming into the country.”

However, he warned “turbulence” will hit agriculture if the UK leaves without a deal, with smaller operations the worst affected and tariffs a “grim and inescapable fact”.

Urging support for Theresa May’s deal, Gove – Westminster’s Environment Secretary – said tariffs, border checks, potential delays for recognition of organic products and labour pressures would all add to costs for food producers, telling the conference: “Nobody can be blithe or blase about the real impacts on food producers in this country of leaving without the deal.”

But, expounding the benefits of Brexit, he insisted it will create a “more vibrant farming sector with access to technologies on which the EU is turning its back”.

Gove stated: “Leaving the EU will end support for inefficient area-based payments, which reward the wealthy and hold back innovation, and we can move to support genuine productivity enhancement and public goods like clean air, climate change mitigation or the improvement of soil, or water quality or improvements to pollinator habitats.

“All of these are real gains that our departure from the EU can bring, but these real gains risk being undermined if we leave the EU without a deal.”

READ MORE: Warning over climate change threat to Scotland's farmers

Looking beyond Brexit, Gove said the world is on the cusp of a fourth agricultural revolution, with new practices like gene editing, artificial intelligence, robotics and data analytics set to reduce costs and improve yields.

Saying that farmers embracing change and reform would help unlock support from the Treasury, which wants to back growth and innovation, he told the conference: “If we embrace the potential of the fourth agricultural revolution we can guarantee the future of the UK as a major global food producer.”

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However, Scottish Brexit Secretary Michael Russell said the Prime Minister’s deal is “very bad for farming and farmers” on areas including availability of labour, access to markets and environmental and food standards.

Meanwhile, Minette Batters, president of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), said that, less than 90 days away from Brexit, there is still “enormous uncertainty” about the future and how domestic food production would fare.

The NFU warns that British agriculture could face huge disruption as a result of not being able to export agricultural products to the EU if its role as an exporter has not been re-approved by Brussels in time for March 29.

It says the lamb industry could be hit hardest, as 31% of its produce was exported in 2017.

In a no-deal scenario, exports to the EU from the UK could face huge tariffs, with beef and lamb potentially suffering 65% and 46% duties respectively, which could push up the costs for businesses.

Imports could also be affected, with severe delays at ports for essential items including veterinary medicines, fertilisers, feed and machinery parts.

The NFU also claims there is a risk of opening the UK to goods that are not produced to the high standards of food safety, animal welfare and environmental protection that British farmers meet.

Batters said: “There have been enough warm words and comfort to us as farmers, but now is time for decisions from the Government about how it will secure the nation’s food supply.”

READ MORE: EU insists no further meetings to take place on May’s Brexit deal

Labour’s shadow environment secretary, Sue Hayman, commented: “Michael Gove’s speech today was totally meaningless in the face of Liam Fox’s vision of free trade deals that stand to undercut our farming and food standards.

“His talk of robotics and artificial intelligence is irrelevant while basic legislation on farming isn’t even in place and there are serious concerns about the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ preparedness for a no-deal scenario that would be devastating for farmers.”