US ambassador to UK says American food is ’safe’
The UK ambassador Woody Johnson appeared on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show last weekend saying US food standards were completely safe and stating British people who did not like it did not have to buy it.
NFU president Minette Batters questioned whether the British public would accept lower standards in exchange for a US deal.
“Put simply, some US food would be illegal to produce here. British farmers do not rely on chlorine-wash to ensure their chicken is safe to eat, nor do they feed growth hormones to their cattle, pigs or dairy cows.
“In the US, for example, there are hardly any welfare laws for laying hens, with no federal laws on housing, which are in stark contrast to the UK’s advanced rules on laying hen welfare.”
Ms Batters said US farmers could out-compete British ones on price by using methods banned in the UK as early as the 1980s.
“British farmers are quite reasonably expected to meet the values of the British public when it comes to how our food is produced,” she said.
“Allowing free access for cheaper US produce would completely take the legs out of our farming sector, with higher production costs leaving farmers completely uncompetitive. It could jeopardise our entire domestic food production system and undermine public trust.
“If the Government chooses to pursue a trade deal that facilitates products entering the country produced to these banned methods, I would consider that a betrayal of British farmers and the values we all stand for.”
.@NFUtweets, we will not compromise on our high food or animal welfare standards as part of any trade deals. Any future deal with the US must work for UK consumers, farmers and companies.— Department for International Trade (@tradegovuk)
The Tenant Farmers Association (TFA) chief executive George Dunn said the worry was in the rush to achieve a quick result, the Government would allow a breach in standards.
He suggested if standards were important to the UK, it must apply them to imported food.
“Without a clear commitment from the British Government to uphold our standards, British farmers will be forced to compete unfairly and will be undermined commercially,” he said.
“A race to the bottom on standards should not be our aspiration, but if we open the floodgates to lower standard products from abroad that is exactly what we will achieve.
“The Government cannot talk about high standards on the one hand and undermine them for political expediency on the other,” he said.
NFU Cymru President John Davies added US farmers would have a competitive advantage on price due to production methods.
“We have heard numerous political figures making promises on various platforms over the last few years saying our hardworking industry would not be sold down the river in an eleventh hour trade agreement.
“We need those figures to stay true to those words in the coming months.”
He added Welsh farming must not fall victim to a trade agreement premitting access for US produce.
“Such a scenario could put our domestic food production system at severe risk, while public trust and confidence that has taken decades to build could be decimated overnight.”