Defra Secretary Michael Gove has welcomed the NFU’s call to set up a Trade and Food Commission to ensure the UK’s high food production standards are protected after Brexit.
It is hoped the commission, made up of food and farming experts, would make recommendations on how future food trade policy should be formulated.
Topics the commission would be expected to cover include ensuring imports meet the same standards as food produced domestically and how future trade deals should be scrutinised by Parliament and the industry.
The union’s president Minette Batters will say at NFU conference later today: “The issue of maintaining our food standards is critical.
“Which is why I am asking for a high-level commission to be convened, bringing together Government officials, industry representatives, civil society groups and experts in food and farming.
“This commission needs to be charged with producing a report before the end of the year.
“Critically, the commission would need to make recommendations on how future trade deals should be scrutinised at a high level by Parliament and industry, and the Government would need to act on those recommendations.
“Warm words are nice, but we need firm commitments and clear actions.”
Ms Batters’ comments come shortly after the NFU’s Brexit director, Nick von Westenholz, said the Government needed to publish a ‘detailed policy statement’ on how it intends to deal with the problem of sub-standard food imports during a Farmers Guardian Ploughing Through Brexit podcast.
“If the Government cannot do it through legislation, for whatever reason, then what other tools are at its disposal,” he asked.
Mr Gove said: “Already, the Agriculture Bill creates new powers to improve the functioning of the supply chain, support farmers through volatile times, safeguard producer organisations and guarantee new sources of income for future business.
“And we are in discussion about how to go further to support sustainable food production and protect our high standards in a competitive trading environment.
“We have been clear we will not lower our standards in pursuit of trade deals, and we will use the tools we have at our disposal - tariffs, quotas and legislation - to make sure standards are protected and you are not left at a competitive disadvantage.
“That is why I welcome Minette’s call to establish a Commission to examine how we can maintain high standards. This is an idea which has a number of merits and we will be giving it full consideration.”
The NFU has also launched a new report on the future of British food and farming ahead of its annual conference.
The Future of Food 2040 attempts to predict what the industry will look like in 20 years, exploring how changing trends will affect food production, what people will be eating and how they will be buying their food.
The union’s head of policy services and author of the report, Dr Andrea Graham, said: “This report is a catalyst to encourage us all to start the debate about our food and our future so we can start to plan ahead.
“It is also a reminder for Government, at a critical time in British history, to put domestic food production as a strategic priority in all policy making.
“This includes a future domestic agricultural policy, which must enable farm businesses to take advantage of the many opportunities that will present themselves over the coming years.”
To listen to Farmers Guardian’s Brexit podcasts in full, click HERE.