Don’t betray our industry with cheap food Brexit deals, warn farming leaders
- Credit: Sonya Duncan
Stopping cheap food imports like chlorinated chicken and hormone-fed beef flooding onto UK supermarket shelves after Brexit is the top priority for farming leaders in 2020.
In her New Year message, National Farmers' Union (NFU) president Minette Batters said the industry's most urgent concern was for the government to agree a trade deal with the EU which "supports a profitable and sustainable farming sector" by the end of the year.
Ms Batters also urged ministers not to "betray" the high animal welfare, food safety and environmental standards achieved by UK farmers as the nation seeks post-Brexit trade deals with countries such as the USA, Australia and New Zealand.
"In Britain, we have some of the highest standards of animal welfare, environmental protection and food safety in the world," she said.
"Our farmers have worked hard to earn this place on the global stage and are rightly proud of their reputation.
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"It is imperative that our food values are upheld as we enter into international trade negotiations with parties such as the US, Australia, New Zealand and Japan.
"We cannot risk betraying these values by allowing food imports such as chlorinated chicken and hormone-fed beef - food that has been produced in ways that are illegal here - on to our supermarket shelves."
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That message was echoed by Norfolk NFU chairman Nick Deane, who farms at Hoveton. He said his New Year policy priorities included "the recognition that as an island nation we need to trade, but any food produced to standards that are illegal in this country will be banned from being imported."
As pressure ramps up on countries to increase action to tackle climate change, the NFU president also pointed to the organisation's ambition to make British farming achieve net zero emissions by 2040 - a decade earlier than the UK as a whole.
She said the NFU would continue to work with the government to ensure there were effective incentives to cut emissions in the new Agriculture Bill governing farming after Brexit.
A government spokeswoman said: "We will always back Britain's farmers and make sure they can seize the opportunities presented by Brexit. This includes taking advantage of the growing global demand for our great British produce.
"As we have already made very clear, we will not compromise any of our high environmental or animal welfare standards when we have left the EU.
"The government's Agriculture Bill will set out our plans to reward farmers for enhancing our natural environment and safeguarding the nation's high welfare standards."