Food standards: why an official Trade and Agriculture Commission is a victory for British farming?


The NFU has led the campaign to ensure that all food imports are produced to the same high standards as those adhered to by British farmers, and this principle is upheld in all future trade deals.

The campaign started back in February when a petition was launched calling on the government to put in place laws to prevent food being imported into the UK produced to lower standards than our farmers and growers produce to.  The simple ask of not undermining our high food production standards struck a chord with the public at a time when so much in life was uncertain.

Famous names like Jamie Oliver and Jimmy Doherty united behind the NFU’s clear ask alongside other influential groups like World Wildlife Fund, the RSPCA and Which. This unlikely coalition helped galvanise support and saw the petition become one of the largest this country has ever seen, being signed by over one million people. The Mail on Sunday also got behind the campaign with weekly features from vets, politicians, chefs and farmers all highlighting the potential scandal of undermining British farmers.

Food standards petition web banner_73761

In the face of such views the government listened, setting up the Trade and Agriculture Commission to review all future trade deals in the summer. This move was welcomed, but the NFU continued to campaign to ensure the Commission’s remit was strengthened to provide scrutiny on all trade deals and that scrutiny was incorporated in the Agriculture Bill, prior to it becoming law. Click here for details on the Commission.

NFU President Minette Batters re-iterated that “This autumn is a critical time for British food and farming with the new Agriculture Bill being passed into law and trade negotiations, including crucial talks with the EU, continuing. A successful farming future rests on how the government shapes trade deals with countries around the world and supports farming in the coming months and years ahead. It must ensure we aren’t put at an unfair competitive disadvantage from food imports that would be illegal to produce here.”

Over the last two months MPs post bags have been filled with letters asking for the Commission to be strengthened to provide MPs with the information they need to scrutinise all trade deals prior to them being agreed in Parliament. This strength of voice coupled with meetings at the highest level of government, including the NFU President meeting with the Prime Minister, has led to the announcement that the Trade and Agriculture Commission is being made a statutory body to give independent advice on trade deals that impact food and farming as they go through Parliament. This huge win would not have been possible without you, the public.   

So, why is an official Trade and Agriculture Commission such a victory for British food and farming and the food we eat? 

Find out below. Click on the question to reveal the answer.

The Commission, made up of independent food, farming and environmental experts from across the UK, will advise the government on the impact of any future trade deals in a report that will be laid before parliament before any deal is ratified. The report will focus on the impact on animal welfare and UK agriculture. Politicians will have 21 days to scrutinise, debate and vote on the findings of the Commission before any trade deal is approved by parliament.

Yes. Crucially the government has promised to put it on a full statutory footing (i.e. in law). Its role will be to produce a report for Parliament on the impact of all new trade deals on British food and farming. This enables MPs to scrutinise trade ahead of the 21 day ratification period.

Yes. The legislation is set to be in both the Agriculture Bill and the Trade Bill before the end of the EU Exit transition period, which is due to be 31 December 2020.

Yes. The commission will make it abundantly clear where trade deals could be letting in food imports that would be produced to standards that would be illegal here. And even more importantly it offers some solutions to what is likely to be a very complex negotiating process for the UK Government. We must then trust the democratic process and elected representatives to back British farming.

That is certainly a possibility. But it is also very possible that they will listen to the commission as it acts in the best interests of the country and MPs know from recent months campaigning that food standards is an issue their constituents care about.

Yes. This issue is far from over. Dozens of trade deals are set to be struck in the coming months and years. We'll need our farmers and campaign supporters to keep highlighting the importance of high food standards and to help MPs understand how much we all care about the food on our plates, the animals we look after and countryside we all treasure.

To keep up to date with the campaign become a Back British Farming supporter for free today.

Last edited: 06 November 2020 at 16:01

Have your say

Birgit Cain - 23/11/2020 10:44:01

I always buy British. Here is to a very successful Christmas trade for you, you work so gard Good luck

Sandra Findlay - 21/11/2020 08:09:26

Buy from your local butcher .it might be a little more expensive then cut down on how many times you eat meat in a week

Paul Granger - 17/11/2020 17:40:29

Our British Farmers are our bread and butter of high quality standards in all aspects of food production. We must all continue to support their commitments and not allow lesser standards of food into our country.

Kathleen Walsh - 16/11/2020 14:49:56

I only buy British produce, I dread the thought of Chlorinated chicken and meat from the USA. I will continue too support our farmers who are overworked and underpaid.

Keith Kerr - 16/11/2020 07:09:11

Why do we need a commission to check the trade deals? If we have a set of high quality standards for our own farmers then those standards should be part of any trade agreement. This Government proposal looks very suspect. Our country is already flooded with sub-standard products. Do you think it is going to get better?

Lesley Gumbrell - 15/11/2020 20:46:24

Look after sheep farmers .Their trade is in danger from high tariffs if a deal is not organised with EU

Laura Grey - 15/11/2020 19:47:22

Christmas day is safety. You stay safety

Elizabeth Hodder - 15/11/2020 18:11:52

Well done. This is very encouraging news, and by golly we need some just now.

Carole Buttle - 15/11/2020 17:32:00

Such an important issue. Happy to add my support.

Val - 15/11/2020 16:32:30

I totally agree with Elaine's comments on 6/11/2020. I'd much prefer to see British food produce when I shop at our local supermarkets. At least you know it hadn't had to travel thousands of miles, is of good quality and helps sustain British farmers in a much needed workforce. They also care for our environment and wildlife and help to make this country more self sufficient.

Laura Chilcott - 15/11/2020 15:58:36

We need to keep the standards for ALL animal welfare. Keep up the pressure

Patricia Cockram - 15/11/2020 14:55:47

I can not believe that Tesco are importing frozen chicken from China. Read the food labels please

Kenneth Wilkinson - 15/11/2020 13:58:00

I trust the British farmers to produce high quality food. Just buy British food

Joseph Marshall - 10/11/2020 16:21:42

It's very encouraging news that the Trade and Agriculture Commission is to be a statutory body and that MPs will have a say on trade deals affecting our farmers. This is a well-deserved victory, brought about as the result of an excellent campaign. The victory is vital for farmers, but also has wider implications. We have a constitution that places insufficient checks on the executive. In the past we have seen attempts at executive power-grabbing in various forms by both Labour and Conservative prime ministers. Mr Johnson is a man of proven untrustworthiness: the more power such an unstable character gathers to himself, the more damage he will cause. It is good both for British farmers and for the overall political health of this country that Mr Johnson has met with a very necessary check.

Anthea Griggs - 10/11/2020 00:16:16

Keep up the good work to guarantee the high standards.

William Wilson - 09/11/2020 08:57:19

I fear imported foods from USA will end up in our catering and food manufacturing lndustry.

Ayee Mendes da Costa - 07/11/2020 21:26:46

I did backed the bill so it would become law. To ensure our food is as produced by our British farmers

Huw Jones - 06/11/2020 21:59:39

There is a huge Tory majority in the House of Commons, so with their history of guillotining bills and using the three line whip on their members, is there any guarantee that a House of Commons vote will make any difference? And the Government also has a habit of ignoring advice from Advisory bodies and Commissions. WHile this is, in general, good news, it looks as though we must all remian vigilant and be prepared to renew the fight.

Trevor Jay - 06/11/2020 15:43:25

I am very pleased with the progress that has been made due in no small part to the likes of Minette Batters, Jamie Oliver and company. I am happy to offer my support with future efforts to help maintain the quality food our existing standards have provided (or better) and to stop any form of lesser standards getting through any back door route.

Elaine - 06/11/2020 15:33:37

I want to eat British food first & foremost. So why must we do deals abroad when our farmers need OUR support to buy their produce before we accept foreign imported food! When we started the process of leaving the EU a lot of produce from Spain became of inferior quality, we were getting smaller salad stuff, ie lettuce & peppers. We must encourage our farming industry to grow these things. Get back to seasonal produce! Or give the farmers these huge greenhouses to grow the things we have taken for granted.

Christine jenkins - 06/11/2020 15:29:39

I agree that we need to no what we’re eating and to keep it British.

Frederickwoodward and Sylvia Joy Woodward - 06/11/2020 15:28:31

Hers to a very successful campaign on behalf farmers also British public

L Thorley - 06/11/2020 15:23:31

It is more optimistic, but I have very little faith in our so-called democratic process and elected representatives as evidenced by the Coronavirus 2020 Act ensuring laws can be passed without the need for any debate. All of which has had the full compliance of opposition parties. The fight is indeed far from over.

Rosemary Danks - 06/11/2020 11:24:17

We must support the British Farmers and keep up the standards of meat entering our country as high as what we produce. I support our local farmers by buying produce from our local farm shops.

Rosemary Groves - 06/11/2020 10:46:04

What a brilliant step in the right direction. Thanks for all your very hard work.

Pam Sissons - 06/11/2020 10:41:30

Brilliant news but what about BRITISH FISHERIES because they need just as much, if not more, protection. Give us back control of our waters, our fish!

Kim Jackson - 06/11/2020 10:19:06

Well done to everyone to get our feelings heard.It is important to me what I feed my family.Keep going with this wonderfully victory.

Robert Stordy - 06/11/2020 09:51:17

As someone who has spent a lifetime working within the Catering Industry both in the UK and abroad, I have always appreciated and respected the standard of foods grown and produced here. Like many, I have had my concerns that post Brexit trade agreements could impact on our home grown produce and the possibility of seeing lower quality and cheaper foods being imported thereby posing a threat to the livelihood of our farmers etc. This latest step is great news and it ensures those responsible for decision making must do so under the remit of the new legal commission.

Susan Riches - 06/11/2020 09:19:01

See what happens when we all sing from the same song sheet,very well done everybody.

Hazel Hewson - 06/11/2020 09:06:17

So pleased to hear the people are being listened to

Nancy Taylor - 06/11/2020 08:47:15

I support our farmers all the way, we know how hard they work and they make sure that the food they produce is of the highest standard.

Jackie Tarlton - 06/11/2020 08:45:00

Uphold our food standards

Mrs Nancy Taylor - 06/11/2020 08:38:45

It is vital that we know where our food comes from and support our farmers as we know what a high standard they set and they deserve it for all the hard work they do.

Nancy Taylor - 06/11/2020 08:24:13

It is important that we know where our food is grown and where it comes from and support our own farmers first and foremost it is vital that we do this as we know what high standards our farmers have.

P Martucci - 06/11/2020 07:55:15

We must continue to protect our farmers / growers , and food standards, well done people so far, we have lost a lot of our farming history, hopefully we can get it back for Britain and the people

Crispin de Pass - 06/11/2020 00:13:26

This is a victory for common sense and the general public and shows what effective lobbying can achieve.

keith Haslam - 06/11/2020 00:05:06

Wonderful news if it really works.

Wendi Wigham - 05/11/2020 22:20:10

It's amazing what can be achieved by people coming together and ensuring that our voices are heard.It's a pity that the people we voted into power cannot be trusted to act in out best interests. We shouldn't have to petition them to do what is right, but fortunately through petitions like this and support from well known people, the government cannot ignore us. Well done to all who were involved in getting the Agricultural Bill passed .

Laura Grey - 05/11/2020 22:10:27

Safety meat, fish, dairy. Good healthy is diet

Diana McLaren - 05/11/2020 21:17:08

I contacted my MP Ronnie Cowan (SNP for Inverclyde) Here is what I said after Mr Cowan’s office manager (Iain) had sent me a copy of Liz Truss’ letter this week to MPs on “Food Standards” Thank you, Iain, for keeping me informed about food standards. I was interested in the section which begins “Imposing an outright blanket ban on imports that do not meet UK production standards is not the right way to support our farmers........... Developing countries would struggle to meet these new requirements, with a knock-on impact on their people and economies. It would harm the interests of the UK public, who already safely eat and drink imported products that don’t precisely meet our production standards.” I only hope this is not the thin edge of the wedge that would provide a loophole to be exploited by foreign imports from any origin, as this would provide a way to circumnavigate EU and British food standards. I appreciate you forwarding this to me and will continue to take an interest in this topic. Kind regards Diana McLaren

Brenda Stewart - 05/11/2020 21:14:20

I have always been proud of being British. I feel it’s our duty to support the British standards so that we can all stay proud.

John Gogle - 05/11/2020 20:14:40

At last the government listen to farmers

ANITA M JENKINS - 05/11/2020 20:05:15

For 2 long our hard working farmers have been downtrodden on.( my partner is a farmer he worked very long hours) Its time that the british public stood behind them and said enough of us paying Europe to rob them blind, give them a decent subsidy in order for them to keep farming and employ more people.

David Gwilt - 05/11/2020 19:44:57

Very well done for all the effort everyone put in to get this to happen. I myself have contacted my local MP several times about this matter, but only had a standard letter back. So I think its only because of the overall pressure we have got this result.

Gillian Bell - 05/11/2020 19:09:46

so pleased that the goverment have listened to everyone who signed up and I hope they support our farmers so that British meat is available to all at a reasonable price

Sheila Gavagan - 05/11/2020 18:51:08

We must keep up the pressure.

Mrs Linda Cawthotne - 05/11/2020 18:47:57

I am so pleased and I would like to be kept up to date with all that concerns this issue.

Hilary Bailey - 05/11/2020 18:32:23

keep up the good work

June Foster - 05/11/2020 18:31:12

We should totally support our own farmers whether it is meat or fruit and vegetables (here we can go back to eating seasonal veg and fruit). After all, not including myself, the British public chose to leave the EU, so it is vital we support our own country first which holds very high standards in farming.

brian case - 05/11/2020 18:24:44

I want to ensure that they animals in my food chain are properly cared for and bred for their taste and not the convenience of the retailer or food outlet.

Yvonne whitfield - 05/11/2020 18:09:15

Thank you for all that you have done.

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