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From the editor: Consumers have the power to shun substandard imports

‘Liz Truss goes on a trade mission’, sounds as if it could be the title of an unpublished Enid Blyton novel, only less interesting.

But there she is, the former Defra Secretary, plying her wares in New Zealand and promising that she will establish a comprehensive free trade deal with our Antipodean cousins.

 

Not the most natural on the world stage, Ms Truss is part of a generation of politicians for whom style trumps substance and a social media soundbite or photographic snapshot of her hard at work is constantly eyed.

 

The implications for UK agriculture of her trade deals, however, are very significant, especially if the door is opened to even greater quantities of meat from half way across the world, be that New Zealand lamb or Brazilian beef.

 

The detail of such trade deals needs hammering out and they should not be ones which cause UK domestic produce, such as lamb, to be undercut by foreign imports which come from systems that do not have the same standards, be they welfare, environmental or otherwise, as we have in the UK.

 

British consumers must also decide at a societal level what they want from their food. Do they want cheap meat shipped thousands of miles and with a huge carbon footprint, or do they want homegrown produce which supports farmers, rural communities and our treasured landscapes.


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The challenge for our farming bodies is communicating the dangers of such deals to the likes of Ms Truss and her fellow MPs.

 

Behind the hysteria about Brexit representing the apocalypse for UK farming, our unions and representative bodies need to be reinforcing the message that our food producers must not be undercut by substandard imports.

 

But this is an increasingly difficult task given the gap between what Ministers see as the right course of action, and the actual implications of the deals they strike.

 

As often voiced in this column, it is very worrying that detached politicians with little or no understanding of agriculture and rural communities are shaping policies that could have serious ramifications for decades to come.

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