Agriculture Bill, Food Standards and Animal Welfare

Thank you for contacting me about the impact of the UK’s decision to leave the European Union on farming and food standards.

Farming is a bedrock of our economy and environment, generating £112 billion a year and helping shape some of our finest habitats and landscapes. I am pleased that the Government will continue to commit the same cash total in funds for farm support until the end of this Parliament in 2022. Once we have the freedom to move away from the Common Agricultural Policy, the proposal is for an ‘agricultural transition’ period in England, allowing farmers to prepare for a new system.

Leaving the EU creates a once in a generation opportunity to design a domestic agricultural policy that will stand the test of time. Starting from first principles we can bring in new ideas to support investment in healthy, sustainable British food production and enable farming, the environment and animal welfare to reach even higher standards. The Government proposes to move to a system of paying farmers public money for public goods, principally environmental enhancement.

Ministers have consulted widely with farmers and others, and have published the Agriculture Bill alongside their response; it focuses mostly on England because they recognise that devolution provides each administration with the powers to decide its own priorities. They are keenly aware of the importance of seasonal labour, so will work with the industry to ensure it has the right people with the right skills.

We must take this opportunity to use public money to reward environmentally-responsible land use, as well as maintaining and enhancing high standards of animal welfare. I am convinced that we will harness this opportunity and ensure that our best days as a food and farming nation lie ahead of us.

On food standards and trade deals, it is absolutely vital that people across the UK have confidence in the food that they eat, which is why I welcome the Government’s very clear commitment that future trade agreements must uphold our country’s high food standards. Ministers have made it clear that these standards will not be watered down in pursuit of any trade deal. I am aware consultations have already taken place in the US, New Zealand and Australia, as well as with the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

Public consultations will be run ahead of any negotiations for new trade agreements, while any final agreements will be scrutinised and ratified by Parliament. These measures will ensure that both Parliament and the public can have their say on the content of any potential new trade agreements, including food standards.

To provide continuity in our country’s existing trade relationships, the Government will transition existing EU trade agreements, to which our country is party, into UK law. As these trade agreements will be transitioned on the closest possible terms as each original agreement, this process will not have an impact on food standards.

I support the Food Standards Agency (FSA)’s “Regulating Our Future” programme, which seeks to modernise the way that food businesses are regulated, by creating a system that is modern, risk-based, proportionate, robust and resilient.  One example of the work which the FSA is currently doing to tackle poor food standards is its campaign against campylobacter, the most common cause of food poisoning in the UK.

I am encouraged by the Government’s commitment to upholding our high food standards that will ensure that people across the UK will continue to have confidence in the food that they eat.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.

Craig Whittaker MP

Amended July 2019