ONCE THE floodgates are opened to cheap imports there will be no returning to the safety and assurances the UK currently enjoys.

That was the warning from the Save British Farming campaign, in a letter signed by 21 other farming organisations, campaign groups and political parties, which harshly criticised the UK Government for passing its new Agriculture Bill without enshrining food, animal welfare and environmental standards in legislation.

Although an increase in parliamentary scrutiny through the Trade and Agriculture Commission (TAC) has been cautiously welcomed, there are those who believe the legal doors have still been left open to low standard imports.

The letter reads: “It is hard to see how the TAC or parliament have any powers in law to force changes in a damaging trade deal. As such, we argue that the intention of government is to claim support for high farming and food standards whilst preparing to torpedo the same.

“This is unacceptable to ourselves and, we believe, the public at large. We demand high standards clearly guaranteed in primary legislation and a revised TAC that is actually representative of, and trusted by, farming, environmental, health, and animal welfare communities.”

Founder of Save British Farming, Liz Webster said: “By tinkering with the status of the TAC from temporary to permanent, the Govt has successfully diffused and disarmed campaign obstructions to lowering food standards. The TAC's influence on future trade deals is limited to only scrutinising deals after they are completed and for a very short time, merely three weeks. With no powers for a veto, I believe the likelihood of global Britain forging ahead with trade deals that decimate our standards and farms has increased,” she warned.

“It is essential for everyone opposed to enabling the horrors of losing food security and enabling more animal cruelty, more climate damage, more public health calamities continue to work together to show the depth of feelings on this issue. Once the floodgates are opened, there will be no easy returning to the luxury of safety we currently enjoy.”

Head of food and farming policy at Sustain, Vicki Hird, said: "We need food, environment and animal welfare standards protected in law and any new oversight body needs to have independent members with expertise in these areas. Critically, parliamentarians need to be able to say no to deals if our standards are at risk."

Senior policy manager for Compassion in World Farming UK, James West, added: “An increase in parliamentary scrutiny is welcome, but what has been offered is very modest and still leaves the door open to low standard imports. The regulations currently in place are entirely insufficient to prevent cheap, low welfare meat, cheese, butter and eggs pouring into the UK from the US. Our farmers will not be able to compete with imports of beef from feedlot reared cattle or egg powder from battery hens.”


The letter is signed by Save British Farming; Sustain: The Alliance for Better Food & Farming; Small Farms Association; Farms to Feed Us; NI Farmers for Action; Landworkers Alliance; Forces Farming Ltd & Forces into Agriculture CIC; Compassion for World Farming; Pasture-Fed Livestock Association; Foundation for Common Land; Friends of the Earth; Global Justice Now; Produce & Provide; Free Range Dairy Network; Farms Not Factories; Organic Farmers & Growers; Eating Better; Pesticide Action Network UK; Farm Wilder; Green Party of England & Wales; Social Democratic and Labour Party (NI); and the Scottish National Party.