The Tenant Farmers Association (TFA) is warning the Government not to undermine British farmers by agreeing trade deals which allow imports of agricultural products produced to lower standards than apply domestically.
TFA Chief Executive, George Dunn, said “In the halo surrounding the State Visit of the US President, Donald Trump, there has been much talk about an early UK/US trade deal in the wake of our departure from the European Union. The worry is, in the rush to achieve a quick result, we will allow a breach in our standards which will not be good for consumers, the environment, animal welfare or UK agriculture.”
Much of the talk within the national media has been around the issue of food safety, however, the issues go much more widely than that. Production standards have been imposed domestically not just for food safety but for environmental and animal welfare reasons. Whilst these can be more difficult to protect within international trade it is not impossible. However, it will require determination on the part of the British Government to ensure that current standards are upheld and that there is legislation to apply the same standards to traded products.
“If the standards we impose upon domestic food production are important to us as a country, we must also ensure that we apply those same standards on the food we import. To do otherwise would be duplicitous as it would support the continued use of environmental and animal welfare practices which we are trying to control. We might as well rip up our standards if we take that approach,” said Mr Dunn.
“Without a clear commitment from the British Government to uphold our standards British farmers will be forced to compete unfairly and will be undermined commercially. A race to the bottom on standards should not be our aspiration, but if we open the floodgates to lower standard products from abroad that is exactly what we will achieve. The Government cannot talk about high standards on the one hand and undermine them for political expediency on the other,” said Mr Dunn.
“We have the unhealthy situation of the Government’s legislative programme being in paralysis whilst at the same time, high political stakes as the Conservative Party seeks to elect a new leader and Prime Minister. The candidates are lining up to show their credentials as tough negotiators with the EU along with a strong determination for the UK to make trade deals with the rest of the world. Those strong negotiators must have UK food standards high on their list of priorities,” said Mr Dunn.