The Agriculture Bill, which will govern the way England is farmed for many years, is going through its final stages in the House of Commons this afternoon. The Sustainable Food Trust welcomes the many good things in the Bill but has serious concerns about its deficiencies, as set out in our press release. In a historic coalition between farming, environmental and animal welfare organisations, convened by the NFU, we signed a joint letter to all 650 MPs calling for vital safeguards to be included in the Agriculture Bill.

Such safeguards are essential to ensure that the food we import in any potential trade deals meets the same high standards of animal welfare and environmental protection as is expected of UK food producers.

The Bill returns for its final Report stages today (Wednesday) before heading to the House of Lords. It will result in the biggest reform and transformation of British agriculture and food production since 1945.

The letter to MPs asks them to speak up for British food and farming in today’s House of Commons debate.

The letter states: “Today’s debate comes at a time when, due to Brexit, we are fundamentally reassessing our trading relationship with partners in the EU and across the world. It also coincides with one of the most serious crises the world has faced in a generation in the form of the coronavirus, and the ongoing challenges of climate change and biodiversity decline.

“We are urging you to take this last opportunity to ensure that the Bill secures vital safeguards for the high standards of food safety, animal welfare and environmental protection that the British public value so highly.

“The Bill should ensure that agri-food imports are produced to at least equivalent environmental, animal welfare, and food safety standards as those required of producers in the UK.

“We are all agreed that a trade policy that undermines our farmers will mean a common goal of a more prosperous, sustainable and nature-friendly food and farming sector will be made much harder to achieve. And the UK will have missed an opportunity to set out its stall as being serious about tackling its global footprint.

“There are a number of amendments being brought forward which we believe the House should support. MPs must not miss this final opportunity. 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.

“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 UK 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 letter has been sent to all 650 MPs. Signatories include:

Minette Batters – President, National Farmers Union

Beccy Speight – Chief Executive, RSPB

Chris Sherwood – Chief Executive, RSPCA

Miriam Turner and Hugh Knowles – Co-Chief Executives, Friends of the Earth

Mark Bridgeman – President, CLA

Hilary McGrady – Director-General, National Trust

Helen Browning – Chief Executive, Soil Association

Sue Davies – Head of Consumer Protection and Food Policy, Which?

Patrick Holden – Chief Executive, Sustainable Food Trust

Shaun Spiers – Chair, Greener UK & Executive Director, Green Alliance

Craig Bennett – Chief Executive, The Wildlife Trusts

Richard Benwell – Chief Executive, Wildlife and Countryside Link

Kath Dalmeny – Chief Executive, Sustain: The alliance for better food and farming

John Davies – President, NFU Cymru

Caroline Drummond – Chief Executive, LEAF

George Dunn – Chief Executive, Tenant Farmers Association

Ivor Ferguson – President, Ulster Farmers Union

Jyoti Fernandes MBE – Chair, Landworkers Alliance

Martin Lines – UK Chair, Nature-Friendly Farming Network

Andrew McCornick – President, NFU Scotland

Darren Moorcroft – Chief Executive, Woodland Trust

Kate Norgrove – Executive Director of Advocacy and Campaigns, WWF-UK

Doug Parr – Chief Scientist, Greenpeace

James Thornton – Chief Executive, ClientEarth

James Robinson – Conservation Director, Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust

Sarah-Jane Laing – Chief Executive, Scottish Land & Estates.

Photograph: Grayeme

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