Celebrity farmer and food campaigner Jimmy Doherty has told Farmers Guardian’s Over the Farm Gate podcast that Covid-19 has helped bring a new appreciation of farmers and shows why a trade deal with countries like the US should not be done at any cost.
Speaking on the podcast after an NFU petition pressing the Government to ensure all food imports are produced to the same high standards as in Britain garnered more than one million signatures, Mr Doherty said people had become more reconnected with farming and high food production standards since the coronavirus lockdown.
Mr Doherty, who farms with his wife in Suffolk, said: “This hideous situation could have been a smokescreen for the Government to get a deal done [with the US] and quickly get it out of the way, but the situation with Covid has really made people understand and appreciate our farmers.
“In a moment of crisis farmers have kept us all fed. That is why people signed the NFU petition. Yes, let us get a trade deal done, but not at any price.”
The farmer has joined forces with celebrity food campaigner and chef Jamie Oliver - the pair have been friends since they were children - to lobby the Government on food standards.
They have been vocal in the fight against food entering the UK which is produced to lower production standards than are allowed here, including chicken washed in chlorine to guard against bacteria and hormone injected beef to speed up finishing times.
Mr Doherty added: "No one is against trade and this is not about closing down barriers. It is about trade being equal is not about being anti-American.
"There are some fantastic farmers out there [in the US] who produce food to the same standards as us. But we will not be getting that food. And what do they want from us? I cannot see them buying lots of our beef and lots of our wheat and barley.
"If we are going to do a trade deal let us make sure it is all produced to the same standards. We would not dream of buying electrical goods that were produced to standards that we would not accept in terms of health and safety, so why would you do that with food that you are going to put in your mouth?"
Mr Doherty said while people were more connected with their food than they were 10-15 years ago, there was still work to be done to educate the public and he suggested one way in which to help this was giving every school access to a farm.
"There has been a bit of a divorce over the years between farmers and consumers but that gap has closed massively," he said.
"If I had my way I would have a farm in every school or link a farm directly with a school. We talk about woodland classrooms, but there should be farm schools, where children go and learn chemistry, biology, mathematics and English, all based around the farm and how food is produced."
Jimmy Doherty is also backing FG’s 24 Hours in Farming event on August 6, which celebrates the work of British farmers in keeping the countryside thriving.
For more information and to download your free ‘take the pledge’ posters visit fginsight.com/farm24
Listen to the Over the Farm Gate podcast, produced in association with the CLA on your favourite podcast platform or via this link.