The Government has been warned that smaller family farms in Yorkshire could go out of business unless measures are taken to protect the region from cheap imports flooding the market when a post-Brexit trade deal is signed with the US.
Saturday, 3rd October 2020, 5:45 am
Conservative MPs in Yorkshire are being urged to vote for the Government’s new Trade and Agriculture Commission to be given extra powers when legislation setting out the future of British farming returns to the Commons on October 12.
In a defeat for the Government, the House of Lords last month voted for an amendment to the Agriculture Bill requiring the commission to provide Parliament with independent advice about the impact every trade deal will have on our food and farming standards.
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And campaigners say such a move is vital to prevent the interest of British farmers being damaged if a free trade deal with the US leads to cheaper and lower quality American produce flooding the market.
Former Yorkshire MP and now Tory peer Baroness McIntosh said she wanted to avoid a repeat of the UK’s 1999 sow stall ban which resulted in farmers being undercut by cheaper EU imports produced using stalls.
She said: “The Government is absolutely right to maintain our high standards, but the bottom line is that we must ensure that imports of agricultural products meet the same standards. And otherwise, there is no fair competition.
“It is quite possible that particularly some of the smaller farms, some of the uplands and hill farms will go to the wall, will go out of business.”
Richard Sadler, a North Yorkshire volunteer for Save British Farming who helped organise a protest in Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s constituency last month, warned that if food standards are lowered “the only way of competing might be to build US-style factory farms in the English countryside”.
He said: “MPs will have another opportunity to do the right thing and stand up for the interests of our farmers – and everyone who cares about where their food comes from. We will be watching them.”
York Outer MP and former farmer Julian Sturdy has already promised to support the amendment when it comes back to the Commons later this month.
Thirsk and Malton MP Kevin Hollinrake, the son of a hill farmer, has “some sympathy” with the amendment but is unable to support because of the principle of collective government responsibility, as he is Parliamentary Private Secretary to senior Minister Michael Gove.
A Department for International Trade spokesman said the Government will “never sign a trade deal that undercuts farmers and is bad for consumers”.
He added: “The Trade and Agriculture Commission is all about putting UK farming at the heart of our trade policy. It advises the Government how to secure new opportunities farmers in Yorkshire and across the UK, while ensuring the industry remains competitive and that our world-leading standards are not undermined.”