The Agricultural Bill will receive its third and final reading in the Commons today, before it goes before the House of Lords.
Senior regional figures have joined nationwide calls on MPs to safeguard the UK’s high standards in food safety, animal welfare and environmental protection.
The NFU’s North-East regional director, Adam Bedford, Rachael Bice, the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, CEO, and the RSPB’s operations director for northern England, Jim Wardill, have joined forces with the northern director of the CLA, Dorothy Fairburn, the Yorkshire Agricultural Society’s chief executive, Nigel Pulling, and Richard Emmott, director of public affairs for Yorkshire Water.
In a joint statement, they said: “As representatives of farming, environmental and animal welfare organisations across Yorkshire, we urge Yorkshire MPs both rural and urban to take this last proper opportunity to stand up for farming, the environment and rural communities.”
Want more farming and rural news? Join our dedicated Facebook group.The Agricultural Bill, which comes in the wake of Brexit, represents the biggest overhaul of the UK’s farming policies since the end of the Second World War.
Leaving the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy and its subsidy system has seen the introduction of a new ‘public money for public goods’ payment scheme with the focus on animal welfare, the environment and sustainability.
But there have been concerns about the lack of formal requirements in the Bill to uphold British farming standards during trade deal negotiations, leading to fears over cheap imported food produced to standards which would be illegal in the UK.
“The Bill should ensure agricultural imports are produced to at least equivalent environmental, animal welfare and food safety standards as those required of producers in the UK,” the statement said.
“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.”
It also highlighted that a series of amendments aimed at preserving standards are being discussed in today’s reading and urged Yorkshire MPs “not to miss this final opportunity”.
The joint statement added: “We believe the House should support these amendments to ensure the Bill secures the UK’s standards.
“Our diverse farming and food sector, employing thousands of people across Yorkshire and underpinning the wonderful landscapes, is ready to lead the way.
“If UK farming is to face the future as a vital strategic sector, producing the food we eat and meeting the challenges of climate change, food security and the high expectations of the public in the way we treat our farmed animals and wildlife, the Bill must not undermine that very goal by allowing in food imports that fail to meet its high ideals.”
The signatories also called on the Government to take the opportunity to “demonstrate international leadership and promote a progressive model of free trade fit for the 21st century”.
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