‘THE BRITISH public should have the right to buy cheaper US produce if they want to’ – that was the message delivered by US farmers leader, Zippy Duvall, stressing that it was time for the US to be on a ‘level playing field’ and that the UK must ‘accept US food standards’ in any future deal.

In London last week, Donald Trump's national security advisor John Bolton said that the UK would be ‘first in line’ for a trade deal after Brexit, but also suggested a deal could be struck on a ‘sector-by-sector basis’ to speed up the process.

Mr Duvall, who is president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, refuted any trade deal which could see US farmers left out and hit out at criticism of American food standards, urging the UK to base their judgements on science – referring to practices such as GM and chlorinated chicken.

As a poultry farmer in Georgia, he attempted to quell fears over chlorine washing: “There is no scientific basis that says that washing poultry with a chlorine wash just to be safe of whatever pathogens might be on that chicken as it was prepared for the market, should be taken away. If there was something wrong with it our federal inspection systems would not be allowing us to use that," he claimed.

Mr Duvall also dismissed concerns that a trade deal could expose British farmers to damaging competition from big scale US producers and stressed that the choice should be given to UK consumers: "A lot of our farmers don't understand why other countries implement tariffs on our products but then they don't want us to implement any tariffs on our end, so we need to level that playing field, tear down all those barriers and let our people be able to make the choice of what food they want to eat and where it's grown at."

The UK livestock sector is currently facing pressure to lower its carbon emissions and reduce meat production – but Scottish industry spokesmen said such action would be rendered pointless if a trade deal with the US were to see supermarket shelves flooded with imports from across the Atlantic.

NFU Scotland’s director of policy, Jonnie Hall commented: “NFUS believes that the UK Government must seek a future international trading environment which does not negatively impact the economic viability of Scottish farms and crofts. Whatever the future trading arrangements for Scottish and UK food products, any and all food imports must fully adhere to the existing high animal welfare, environmental and processing standards that currently apply here.”

Mr Hall insisted that the UK Government must not enter into a future trade agreement which could negatively impact consumer perceptions of food safety, or export the UK’s environmental, animal welfare and economic responsibility elsewhere.

“Any future trade deal that exposed domestic UK markets to such products would undermine the value and integrity of Scottish and UK food products, and erode consumer confidence,” he warned. “The reputation of Scotland’s iconic food and drinks sectors is based on authenticity and quality, and has been built over many years via the hard work of Scottish farmers and crofters.

"If the UK wants continued access to the European Union, Scotland’s most vital export market for food, then we must ensure equivalence on food standards issues. Any future trade deal that exposed Scottish food products to lower standards, at lower cost, would significantly damage the future fortunes of farming and crofting in Scotland,” he concluded.