MPs urged to back British farming as Ag Bill enters final stages

MPs have been encouraged to speak up for British food and farming during today's Agriculture Bill debate in the House of Commons
MPs have been encouraged to speak up for British food and farming during today's Agriculture Bill debate in the House of Commons

Farmers have urged MPs to ensure the new Agriculture Bill safeguards British food production from lower-standard imports in any future trade deals.

A coalition of farming and environmental organisations have written to all 650 MPs and urged them to debate the issue.

The Bill, seen as the biggest reform of British farming since 1945, returns for its final Report stage today (13 May) before heading to the House of Lords.

But industry groups say the legislation should ensure that any food imported meets the same high standards as is expected of UK food producers.

A letter to MPs has asked them to speak up for British food and farming in today’s House of Commons debate.

The letter states: “Today’s debate comes at a time when, due to Brexit, we are fundamentally reassessing our trading relationship with partners in the EU and across the world.

"It also coincides with one of the most serious crises the world has faced in a generation in the form of the Coronavirus, and the ongoing challenges of climate change and biodiversity decline.

“We are urging you to take this last opportunity to ensure that the Bill secures vital safeguards for the high standards of food safety, animal welfare and environmental protection that the British public value so highly."

The Bill should ensure that agri-food imports are produced to at least equivalent environmental, animal welfare, and food safety standards as those required of producers in the UK, groups say.

Any trade policy that undermines farmers would mean the goal of a more sustainable and nature-friendly farming sector would be made 'much harder' to achieve.

And the UK would have missed an opportunity to set out its stall as being serious about tackling its global footprint, the letter warns.

“There are a number of amendments being brought forward which we believe the House should support. MPs must not miss this final opportunity.

"Amending the Bill to enshrine the importance of food trade, but only where high standards of production are met, will allow the UK to be a standard bearer for sustainable production and climate-friendly farming across the world."

Who has signed the letter?

The letter has been sent to all 650 MPs. Signatories include:

Minette Batters – President, National Farmers Union

Beccy Speight – Chief Executive, RSPB

Chris Sherwood – Chief Executive, RSPCA

Miriam Turner and Hugh Knowles – Co-Chief Executives, Friends of the Earth

Mark Bridgeman – President, CLA

Hilary McGrady – Director-General, National Trust

Helen Browning – Chief Executive, Soil Association

Sue Davies – Head of Consumer Protection and Food Policy, Which?

Patrick Holden – Chief Executive, Sustainable Food Trust

Shaun Spiers – Chair, Greener UK & Executive Director, Green Alliance

Craig Bennett – Chief Executive, The Wildlife Trusts

Richard Benwell – Chief Executive, Wildlife and Countryside Link

Kath Dalmeny – Chief Executive, Sustain: The alliance for better food and farming

John Davies – President, NFU Cymru

Caroline Drummond – Chief Executive, LEAF

George Dunn – Chief Executive, Tenant Farmers Association

Ivor Ferguson – President, Ulster Farmers Union

Jyoti Fernandes MBE – Chair, Landworkers Alliance

Martin Lines – UK Chair, Nature-Friendly Farming Network

Andrew McCornick – President, NFU Scotland

Darren Moorcroft – Chief Executive, Woodland Trust

Kate Norgrove – Executive Director of Advocacy and Campaigns, WWF-UK

Doug Parr – Chief Scientist, Greenpeace

James Thornton – Chief Executive, ClientEarth

James Robinson – Conservation Director, Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust

Sarah-Jane Laing – Chief Executive, Scottish Land & Estates.

It comes as the Tenant Farmers Association (TFA) recently called for the Bill to better protect UK food security following the Covid-19 crisis and it's affect on food production.

The coronavirus pandemic has exposed 'stresses and strains' in British food and farming not seen 'since the second world war', the group said last week.