The NFU has called for the new Agriculture Bill, which will be reintroduced to Parliament this month, to set up a commission to protect food standards in trade deals.
The union’s president Minette Batters issued the demand just one month after Farmers Guardian revealed Defra Secretary Theresa Villiers had backtracked on her predecessor’s promise to establish the body.
In her speech at the Oxford Farming Conference today (January 8), Ms Batters will say the commission must have the ability to scrutinise proposed trade deals and make recommendations on the UK’s future food trade policy, with a requirement for Government to act on those recommendations.
“British farmers are world-leading in our standards of animal welfare, environmental protection and food safety,” she will tell the conference.
“Farmers and the public want it to stay that way, which is why it is crucial the Government introduces a food standards commission which ensures we do not allow imports of food which would be illegal for our farmers to produce here.
“This needs to be backed in legislation by the Agriculture Bill, which will be so significant for our industry.”
Ms Batters is also expected to urge the Government to use the Agriculture Bill to ‘provide financial stability for farmers’.
After the Bill ‘fell’ for the first time in September, the NFU called for the phase out of the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS), currently due to begin in 2021, to be delayed for a year.
In her own speech, Defra Secretary Theresa Villiers will confirm the Bill is to be reintroduced to Parliament this month.
She is expected to say: “We want our new scheme to deliver value for money as well as boosting sustainable productivity to support farmers in their work of feeding the nation.
“Our proposals for environmental land management will be one of the most important environmental reforms for 40 years.
“The process we are about to embark on will, I hope, provide an example to others around the world of what can be achieved if we rethink how we manage the land and produce our food.
“We have the potential to create a virtuous circle between agriculture, tackling climate change, protecting biodiversity, and securing investment in our rural economy.”