Northumberland farmer warns of risk to UK agriculture if food standards bill rejected

A Northumberland farmer fears MPs will reject a parliamentary bill aimed at safeguarding UK food and farming standards.

Sunday, 11th October 2020, 11:49 am
Wooler farmer Mark Mather has a 1,000ha mixed arable and livestock farm at Haugh Head
Wooler farmer Mark Mather has a 1,000ha mixed arable and livestock farm at Haugh Head

Lord Curry’s amendment to the Agriculture Bill is due to go before the House of Commons on Monday, October 12.

It would require that any imported food products meet UK domestic standards on food safety, animal welfare and the environment.

Wooler farmer Mark Mather, who has a 1,000ha mixed arable and livestock farm at Haugh Head, said: "I think UK agriculture has something to be very proud of and Northumberland especially produces some of the best and highest quality livestock in this country, if not the world.

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Mark Mather who farms near Wooler. Picture Jane Coltman

“We need to ensure those food standards are maintained. To vote to demolish that would put the UK agriculture industry at risk.”

The campaign has been backed by farming unions, TV chef Jamie Oliver and more than a million members of the public.

Last month, The House of Lords voted in favour of an NFU-backed amendment to the Agriculture Bill which would strengthen the role of the Trade and Agriculture Commission.

If the amendment goes on to be approved by MPs, the Bill will give the Commission the power to provide Parliament with independent advice about the impact every future trade deal will have on British food and farming standards.

NFU President Minette Batters said: “We believe the role of the Trade and Agriculture Commission is crucial to providing proper parliamentary oversight of our future trade policy and it is encouraging to see Peers support this view.

“They were right to strengthen the Agriculture Bill to provide better scrutiny of future trade deals. I hope MPs will not ignore this strength of feeling when the Bill returns to the House of Commons.”

However, some government ministers including environment secretary George Eustice and trade secretary Liz Truss have signalled they will not back the change because the measures effectively requiring identical food standards to those of the UK would prevent them from negotiating new trade deals.

The Government has maintained that it will uphold standards of imports in negotiating deals, even without being forced to do so by law.

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