An article in the Financial Times, initiated by the NPA, has generated huge interest around a US trade deal and the potential implications for unfair import competition for UK farmers.
FT journalist Peter Foster spoke to NPA chair Richard Lister and visited vice chair Rob Mutimer’s farm in Norfolk last week, with the article published online yesterday (subscription required) and the front page and page 3 of the paper today.
It went into detail about the nature of UK pig production, how it differs from other countries’ pig herds, and what the major pitfalls could be of allowing unrestricted access to US pork imports.
“Ministers often say the UK will not dilute ‘our’ welfare standards after Brexit. But they don’t say how they will protect us from imports produced to much lower standards, like those in the US. We have to have a level playing field,” Mr Mutimer said.
Mr Lister said: “The media has latched on to ‘chlorinated chicken’ and ‘hormone beef’, but the real issue is welfare standards. Without protection, we’ll be sitting ducks.”
NPA senior policy adviser Ed Barker added that even if the UK maintained the EU bans on the feed additive, ractopamine, which is widely used in the US, it was lower welfare standards that really enabled US producers to lower costs, a point backed up by figures. Commenting on the Government’s move to block amendments to the Agriculture Bill that would have legally required equal standards on imports, he said: “If the government is sincere, then why not write it into law?”
The article generated a huge response after it was shared on social media by Mr Foster, with thousands of shares, likes and comments, including from prominent figures in the industry and national media.
In an article on the NPA website, Mr Barker explained how the NPA set the article up and how the day on Mr Mutimer’s far unfolded.
“Peter Foster was keen to get beyond a debate on ‘chlorine chicken’ and instead really understand how a new trade policy in the UK could affect British pig producers at on farm,” he said.
“What was refreshing was that he not only grasped the issues really quickly, but was absolutely clear he wanted to focus on commercial scale UK pig farms, and not the utopian smallholdings that are sometimes presented by media outlets or celebrity chefs!”
Mr Mutimer said: “This was a tremendous opportunity to get the message across about what a trade deal really could mean on farms – and take it beyond the headlines about chlorine-washed chicken, which only tell a fraction of the story.”
- The main picture, taken by Ed Barker, shows Rob Mutimer being interviewed by Peter Foster at his farm in Norfolk.