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In your field: Ian Garnett - ‘MPs should not use farming as just a photo opportunity’

I do wonder if ‘Cheshire maize’ isn’t a perfect illustration of the eternal optimism of farmers.

The probability of harvesting the crop at the right stage of maturity with the right weather conditions, adequate staffing levels and the right field conditions, in October, seems slightly less than winning the National Lottery jackpot.

Still, there is nothing some stuck tractors, brute force, bacon rolls and working for what seems like 27 hours a day cannot fix.

While the UK and indeed the world battles with Covid-19 and the impact it is having on our lives, our families and our businesses, I was extremely disheartened to see the Telegraph article, ‘Jamie Oliver and his MP pals want to tax the poor to subsidise the rich’, which preceded the defeat in the Commons of the proposal to enshrine UK food safety and animal welfare practices in law.

My understanding is that the UK food standards we must adhere to in our food production are minimum standards allowable in the UK for the sale of our goods. They are the minimum the public and retailers will accept.

However, when it comes to importing food into this country which sits alongside UK produce on supermarket shelves or in pubs, hotels, schools and hospitals, these non-negotiable standards become rather more flexible for the non-UK producer.


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Apparently it would be wrong of the UK try to impose its high standards on to imported food. But if the standards we have in the UK are the minimum the public will stomach, surely we can insist on them for imported goods?

 

It must be wrong to potentially mislead UK consumers when the implication is that it will only be on sale here if it abides by our minimum standards.

Surely at this time of pandemic the quality of the food consumed in the UK could not be of greater importance.

While nations strive to honour their commitments to the Paris Agreement on climate change, we cannot afford not to expect better of everyone.

The UK should stand as the model of how to achieve these important and necessary higher standards, showing other countries what is possible, not what is negotiable. Or why do we insist on these standards in the UK at all?

 

Cheshire Young Farmers have written to their MPs to express their disappointment and frustration at the Commons defeat.

These are the very people who will be charged with upholding and improving upon our standards in the future.

I hope the House of Lords, with its distinctive approach, can help MPs see these standards are more important than just wearing a wheatsheaf for a photo.

They run as deep as every meal table in the land.

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