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Farmers' Union declares Trade and Agriculture Commission to be a smokescreen

Farmers’ Union declares Trade and Agriculture Commission to be a smokescreen
10/07/2020 Steph Wetherell


Following the publishing this morning of the Government’s new Trade and Agriculture Commission, farmers’ union The Landworkers’ Alliance are declaring the commission to be a smokescreen that is a distraction from the need for the issue of trade standards to be written in law.

In January, 60 organisations co-signed a letter calling on the Prime Minister to ensure trade standards were protected after Brexit. When the bill was being debated in the House of Commons, a Landworkers’ Alliance letter writing campaign saw more than 5000 letters being written to MPs across the country, and a recent petition by the National Farmers Union has seen more than 1 million signatures. However, amendments put forward in the House of Commons were rejected.

The Landworkers’ Alliance are continuing to campaign for amendments to be added to the Agriculture Bill while it is being debated in the House of Lords. These amendments would prevent food produced to standards lower than the UK from being imported. Cheap food produced to lower animal welfare, environmental and food safety standards undercut fair prices for farmers in the UK who are following high standards for raising animals, don’t use toxic pesticides and refuse to sell chlorinated chicken or hormone treated beef. As farmers are transitioning to the new Environmental Land Management Schemes, they need fair prices to be able to survive financially as the new farming systems fall into place over the next 7 years. 

International Trade Secretary, Liz Truss had promised that the Trade and Agriculture Commission will protect farmers, however farmers and environmentalists are sceptical.

Jyoti Fernandes, Campaigns and Policy Coordinator for the Landworkers’ Alliance, said;

“The new Trade and Agriculture Commission is not good enough – it is advisory only and only set to run for 6 months after which it will submit a non-binding report. More than that, the Commission is ideologically flawed; it covers advice about how to build up export opportunities, but fails to consider how to build the domestic localised economy and food sovereignty. It only covers animal welfare and fails to cover environmental standards, like those on pesticides.

The composition of the group also fails to represent small farmers organisations, environmental, consumer protection and animal welfare organisations adequately. A notable gap is that the panel has no organisations representing the interests of small scale farmers in the global south, who are often impacted negatively by free trade agreements and land grabbing by large export orientated companies.

We need a new trade regime that puts the climate and environment crisis, social justice and animal welfare at its heart, and puts high trade standards in the law!”

Tracy Worcester, Director at Farms Not Factories said;

“Judging by the corporate dominated composition of the Government’s Commission, UK farmers are going to be sacrificed at the altar of so-called free trade. This commission is not going to answer the demands of many MPs, Lords, unions, farmers and consumers who want the Agriculture Bill to ban the import of food produced to lower standards in terms of human health, environmental protection and animal welfare, than are demanded of our farmers in the UK.

When 60% of members of the NFU voted for Brexit, it was to ensure that the standards that consumers have lobbied to enshrine into UK law are not undermined by cheap food from the EU. However, it seems that they have simply exchanged the United States of Europe with the United States of America where the standards are considerably worse.”


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