Labour Shadow Defra Secretary Luke Pollard gives his views on the UK-Australia trade deal, and explains why he believes the Government intends to put family farms out of business.
Not content with just betraying our fishing industry, the Government is now set to betray our farmers too.
By rushing into this unchecked trade deal with Australia, Boris Johnson and Liz Truss are putting our small family farms - the backbone of our countryside - at serious risk.
I want to see more food grown in Britain, creating more jobs here and reducing our reliance on imports.
Growing more in Britain cuts food miles and carbon emissions. It also ensures the food we eat and export adheres to our high standards of animal welfare and environmental stewardship.
It seems the Government has a completely different agenda. They want to increase food imports from abroad.
Far from standing up for British farms, I think they are pursuing a policy to reduce the total number of active farmers.
They want to see the number of small family farms reduced in favour of industrialisation and aggregation of farms.
As they continue to cut subsidies to farmers, they know it will drive more farm businesses to the wall.
It is not that they don’t care about this - it is that this is precisely part of their plan.
Now the Government is set to open the door to a zero-tariff trade deal with Australia, that would cause a sharp rise in cheaply imported beef, lamb and sugar.
British farmers would not be able to compete with the scale of Australian agriculture. I can see why this is good news for Australian farmers, but how on earth does it back British farmers?
Australia is the world’s second biggest exporter of beef in the world. The scale of its export operation alone is more than double the total output of the UK’s beef sector.
The average size of a beef cattle herd in England is 27 animals. Most Australian beef farms have capacity for over 10,000 cows.
These vast factories, not constrained by a fraction of the UK’s animal welfare laws and fuelled by the use of growth-promoting antibiotics and hormones banned in Britain, risk pushing our small family farms out of business.
There are serious environmental consequences too if we rush into this deal through with Australia.
The proposed agreement would see us import more of our food from 9,000 miles away. Transporting this would make our food way more carbon intensive than supporting our British farmers.
The NFU has warned that the government would be ‘throwing family farms under a bus’ if they agree to this zero-tariff, zero-quota trade deal.
Voices in the Prime Minister’s own cabinet are telling him that this deal would scar the British landscape, fly in the face of his environmental pledges, and further inflame Scottish and Welsh nationalist sentiment.
Yet the Prime Minister, blinded by a ‘deal-or-no-deal’ mindset since Brexit, seems determined to plough his own furrow.
Britain should be unapologetically proud of our food and farming standards. We should aspire to cut carbon and protect nature. We should have a renewed focus on rural job creation and invest more in agriculture.
That’s Labour’s vision for our countryside and the contrast with the Tory Government’s vision has never been more stark.
Britain should be sending out a clear message with this deal.
After Brexit, our international trade deals should be struck on our terms, to benefit our producers, with the focus placed squarely on putting more British products on shelves.
Instead, the Government is gambling with the future of British farming, just as they already have with British fishing.
Once again they believe they can take farmers and rural communities for granted, assuming that their votes are safe.
Labour will be closely scrutinising this deal.
We want an outcome on agriculture that puts our farmers first, in this trade deal and in all others that will follow.
This will be Britain’s first new trade deal that isn’t simply rolling over deals negotiated when we were EU members.
Far from raising the Union flag proudly, this deal hoists the white flag of surrender.
British farmers deserve better.
Luke can be found tweeting at @LukePollard