Following the publication of the long-awaited response to the Trade and Agriculture Commission (TAC) report and the government’s announcement of the Trade and Agriculture Commission.
NFU president Minette Batters said: “The government has made some important commitments in its response to the TAC report, particularly to provide a greater resource to promote British food overseas as well as a positive commitment to review public procurement and country of origin information for out of home eating. The NFU wants to work with the government in establishing the new Export Council to open up real market opportunities overseas for UK food and farming businesses.
“It is also good to see the new TAC established, which more than one million people supported when they signed our food standards petition.
“However, one of the key drivers for setting up the TAC in the first place was to find practical ways of safeguarding the high environmental and animal welfare standards of UK farmers. This response needed to move on from warm words to concrete commitments and practical and deliverable measures, which it has failed to do. Where is the commitment to establish a clear set of core standards on which to base our free trade agreements – something farmers and the British public alike want to see?
“We can’t overlook the fact that it’s taken more than six months for the government to respond, in which time two important free trade deals have been agreed in principle and which will impact on British farming significantly. The government has missed the opportunity to make these new trade deals fit for the 21st century by ensuring food imports will meet the high animal welfare and environmental standards legally required of our own farmers and desired by the public.
“The disconnect between the government’s domestic and trade policies is stark and needs bridging urgently. The NFU has repeatedly stressed the importance of a strategic approach to boosting domestic food production so farmers can compete in the face of new trade deals and, given the TAC’s own recommendation for a new agri-food trade strategy, it’s frustrating that the government has once again failed to address this.
“There remains plenty of work to do and the NFU stands ready to work with the government to ensure the UK’s trading position equally benefits British farmers and the British public who truly value quality, sustainable, climate-friendly British food.”