Commission of farming experts needed to uphold standards, NFU says

NFU President, Minette Batters has told Michael Gove not to undermine British food standards after Brexit
NFU President, Minette Batters has told Michael Gove not to undermine British food standards after Brexit

The government must create a new commission of food and farming experts to help uphold high food production standards after Brexit, the NFU has urged.

The group, which would be made up of government officials, industry representatives, civil society groups and experts in food and farming, would make recommendations on the UK’s future food trade policy.

This includes how to ensure food imports are held to the same high standards as those British farmers adhere to.

It would also help parliament and the farming industry scrutinise future free trade deals once the UK leaves the EU.

The plea follows Defra Secretary Michael Gove saying British standards won't be undermined. However, the NFU said there must be a commitment from government.

NFU President Minette Batters told delegates at the NFU Conference on Tuesday (19 February) that the farming experts will establish principles for the government to follow.

Stressing that a strong farming industry goes hand-in-hand with a strong environment, Mrs Batters gave detail about the NFU’s plans to tackle greenhouse gas emissions and for British farming to aim to achieve net zero by 2040.

A drive to improve and invest in productive efficiency, incentivising carbon capture from the atmosphere, and bioenergy to power carbon capture storage systems are all part of the strategy.

'Vital industry'

In a speech delivered at NFU Conference, one year after being elected as the first female President of the NFU, Mrs Batters reiterated the strategic importance of British food and farming for the nation’s food security, environment and health and wellbeing.

In her speech, Mrs Batters said: “My mission has been to ensure that the country understands the importance of this strategically vital industry for our health and wellbeing, for our environment and for our food security.

“Around 200 million meals are eaten every day in Britain. And the population is growing. We are proud to produce much of that food. We are proud of our standards.

“I have asked the Secretary of State to commit to ensuring that any future new trade agreements will not undermine British food standards. Put simply, a commitment that after Brexit the food Britain imports will be produced to the same standards which is legally required of British farmers.

“And when I say standards, I mean all of the high standards British farmers observe – often at considerable expense – in protecting the environment, safeguarding animal welfare and providing safe food,” she said.

The commission would be charged with producing a report before the end of the year, and would need to make recommendations on how future trade deals should be scrutinised.

The NFU Conference takes place at the ICC, Birmingham on Tuesday 19 and Wednesday 20 February.