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Norfolk Business Awards 2019

Farmers warn of US trade 'betrayal' as President Trump tours UK

PUBLISHED: 16:07 05 June 2019 | UPDATED: 16:07 05 June 2019

During US president Donald Trump's state visit to the UK, farming leaders have warned that post-Brexit trade deals could leave their industry vulnerable to low-quality imports. Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

During US president Donald Trump's state visit to the UK, farming leaders have warned that post-Brexit trade deals could leave their industry vulnerable to low-quality imports. Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

While US president Donald Trump tours the UK, farmers warned that any trade deal which floods our supermarkets with cheap American food imports would be a "betrayal" of their industry.

The National Farmers' Union (NFU) said British consumers should not be forced to accept lower-quality products such as chlorine-washed chicken or hormone-fed beef in exchange for lowering the tariff barriers for US imports after Brexit.

And the agricultural industry has reiterated its concerns that British farmers, bound by higher environmental and animal welfare criteria, would be unable to compete against imported food produced to much lower standards.

NFU president Minette Batters said: "Put simply, some US food would be illegal to produce here.

"Allowing free access for cheaper US produce would completely take the legs out of our farming sector, with higher production costs leaving farmers completely uncompetitive. It could jeopardise our entire domestic food production system and undermine public trust.

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"If the government chooses to pursue a trade deal that facilitates products entering the country produced to these banned methods, I would consider that a betrayal of British farmers and the values we all stand for."

Those sentiments were echoed by Blickling farmer Tony Bambridge, Norfolk's NFU council delegate and regional East Anglian vice chairman.

He said: "Within the UK and Europe we have collectively made decisions about the use of certain plant protection products, and what environmental standards and animal welfare standards we believe in as a society - and that has implications. It has positive implications in terms of the health and welfare and nutritional quality of those products, but it also means that, compared to the rest of the world, we are very uncompetitive.

"If you now say we are going to be on a level playing field with someone who does not meet these standards, it leaves us massively disadvantaged. I have got nothing against American farmers, but the reality is we are poles apart in terms of what is deemed acceptable.

"Over the last two years we have consistently asked our politicians their view about the implications of doing a trade deal which allows in food that has been produced using plant protection products that are banned in this country, or to standards that are lower than ours.

"I have met every Norfolk MP and they have all said that we cannot allow that to happen, so it would be a betrayal if we end up with trade deals that allow these products to come freely into Britain."

In response to the NFU concerns, the Department for International Trade tweeted: "We will not compromise on our high food or animal welfare standards as part of any trade deals. Any future deal with the US must work for UK consumers, farmers and companies."

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