NFU president Minette Batters is urging MPs to back a trade policy that safeguards British farmers and food production, as the Trade Bill begins its passage in the House of Commons today.
The call comes after the Agriculture Bill passed its Second Reading in the House of Commons unamended last week after MPs rejected an amendment, backed by the farming industry, environmental and animal welfare NGOs that would ensure food imports in any future trade deals meet the same high production standards that are legally required of UK farmers.
The NFU is also continuing to press the importance of a Trade, Food and Farming Standards Commission – a body which would review policy and develop solutions to promote free trade while holding all food imports to the UK’s high food standards.
NFU President Minette Batters said: “As the Trade Bill is debated for the first time in the House of Commons today, I ask MPs to consider one thing – where do they see the UK on the global stage?
“For food and farming, we have the potential to be at the very top. But we need a trade policy that safeguards our farmers and British food production from the damaging impact of importing food that would be illegal to produce here.
“Failure to do this would undermine our values of animal welfare, environmental protection and food safety, all of which are incredibly important to the public.”
Mrs Batters, who has written to all MPs ahead of the debate today, referred to comments from MPs last week that the standards of imported food was an issue for the Trade Bill rather than the Agriculture Bill.
“With this in mind, I hope to see it fully addressed today,” she added. “I would also like to know why the government has not yet established a trade and standards commission. It would be an eminently sensible approach aimed at addressing the many complex challenges in ensuring our high production standards are safeguarded within our future trade policy.
“Our trade policy must reflect our moral responsibilities to the planet and the people and creatures that live on it – protecting our natural environment, caring for our farmed animals, and working toward a more sustainable, climate-friendly way of farming and food production. These are issues that cannot be wished away or presumed dealt with by brief pledges in a manifesto or verbal assurances in media interviews.
“So I ask all MPs to speak up for British farming today; ask for a commission that will protect the UK’s food values from sub-standard imports and ask for more parliamentary scrutiny over future trade deals.”
“We are at a make or break moment for British farming. We have the chance to become a global leader in climate-friendly farming, and neither farmers nor the public want to see that ambition fall by the wayside because our trade policy does not hold food imports to the same standards as are expected of our own farmers.”
“The UK is renowned for its high environmental, food safety and animal welfare standards. And we will safeguard our agriculture sector – we’ve just announced a tariff policy which maintains tariffs on key agricultural products such as lamb, beef, and poultry.
“We have been clear that in all of our trade negotiations – including with the US in our first round of negotiations – that we will not undermine our high domestic environmental protection, animal welfare and food safety standards by ensuring in any agreement British farmers are always able to compete.”
The spokesman said Ministers and officials from DIT spoke to food and farming groups and businesses, including the NFU, over 30 times in the past month as they launch our US trade deal and is committed to transparency in our trade policy.