FARMERS and residents across the dale are being urged to support a petition launched by the NFU demanding that all food imported to the UK under future trade deals is of the same high standards as that produced in Britain.
The NFU wants the Government to put into law rules that prevent food being brought to the UK which is produced in ways that would be illegal here.
The petition, which has attracted more than a million signatures to date, is being supported by Utass (Upper Teesdale Agricultural Support Services).
Upper dale farmer and Utass farmers liaison officer Richard Betton said the Agriculture Bill, which is making its way through parliament, does not mention the high standards of animal welfare and environmental protection that are already enshrined in UK law.
In his latest briefing note to Utass members, he states: “The future of UK farming does not look good if food produced to lower standards, and therefore cheaper to the consumer and cheaper to produce, is allowed to be imported into this country.
“The NFU is sponsoring a petition to the Government requiring our high standards of production to be either enshrined in the Agricultural Act or protected through a Food Standards Commission.
“Utass strongly recommends that this petition should be supported by its members and the wider community.
“The Government is very keen to negotiate a trade deal with the United States in the near future. Our representatives need to know the importance not just of our high standards but protecting them from lower standard imports now or the opportunity might be missed.”
Mr Betton urges Utass members to remind MP Dehenna Davison of the promise she made in her maiden speech to the House of Commons to support and represent the farmers in the constituency.
Ms Davison said she had been contacted by many people about the Agriculture Bill but hadn't been called to speak when it was debated in parliament.
She said: “It is absolutely vital that people across the UK have confidence in the food they eat and feed to their families.
“I therefore welcome the Government’s clear commitment that any future trade agreements must uphold the UK’s high levels of food safety, animal welfare standards, and environmental protection.”
But she added: “We simply cannot begin to impose our domestic production standards on food being imported – this is something we don’t do at present, and subsequently it could lead to increased consumer prices at a time when people are concerned about the impact of Covid on the cost of living.
“Unlike food safety regulations, it is not feasible to think that production standards can be monitored in the third country market.
“I’ve heard from some Teesdale farmers worried that opening the market to imports from the US in particular may disadvantage them,” she added.
“But I firmly believe that the UK agriculture sector will benefit from a US-UK free trade agreement.
“Through a free trade deal with the USA we can reap the benefits of reduced tariffs for both US and UK businesses and consumers, whilst wholeheartedly supporting our farming and fishing industries.
“British food is the best in the world, and that is why I am confident that UK agriculture can compete and succeed,” said Ms Davison.
Details of the NFU petition can be found online at https://www.campaigns.nfuonline.com/page/56262/peti tion/1?en_chan=fb