Hundreds of farmers to join mass rally in defence of food standards

National Farmers' Union president Minette Batters says the government "must not sacrifice British fa

National Farmers' Union president Minette Batters says the government "must not sacrifice British farming on the altar of free trade". Picture: Sonya Duncan - Credit: Sonya Duncan

Hundreds of farmers from across the country are expected to join a mass rally in London in March to urge the government to protect their industry from cheap imports after Brexit.

The National Farmers' Union (NFU) says it will be joined by consumer, environmental and animal welfare experts to call for a commitment that future trade policy will not allow imports of food produced to standards that would be illegal in the UK.

The event will take place on March 25 at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre in Westminster.

The government published a revised Agriculture Bill earlier this month which sets out how it intends to phase out EU subsidies after Brexit in favour of a new system rewarding farmers for providing "public goods" such as environmental enhancements. But to ensure the competitiveness of their industry, farming leaders also want a legal commitment to protect British food standards in any future trade deals.

NFU president Minette Batters said: "This year is absolutely pivotal for the future of our country, our farmers and the food on our plates. Nothing will determine this more than how the government shapes trade deals with the EU and other countries around the world.

"This event is about bringing together people from across British business who acknowledge and value the importance of food and farming. They are crystal clear that the government must hold the line that they will uphold British farming's high standards in trade deals, and crucially they must hold imports entering the country to that same standard.

READ MORE: Could new Agriculture Bill spark a new dawn for farming and the environment?"Failure to do so risks undermining British food production and our own domestic farming industry. We share the government's ambitions to deliver more for the environment, but in doing so, we must not offshore our food production to those parts of the world who do not share our values and standards.

"This is an opportunity for hundreds of people to come together and make their views clear that the government must not sacrifice British farming on the altar of free trade and we will be inviting MPs to attend to hear that message first hand.

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"British farming can be one of the leading lights of post-Brexit Britain if the government chooses to become a global leader in championing sustainable, climate-friendly food that our farmers produce here. Farmers across the country are ready to rise to that challenge and we stand ready to work with the government on that journey."