A ‘betrayal’ and a ‘massive missed opportunity’ – industry anger after Agriculture Bill vote


By Alistair Driver, Pig World (UK)

October 13, 2020


The Government’s decision to reject amendments to the Agriculture Bill that would have offered protection against lower standard imports under future trade deals has been met with disappointment across the industry and beyond.


An amendment from Labour peer Lord Grantchester, which would have required free trade deals to only allow food imports that meet UK legal standards, was rejected by 332 votes to 279, albeit with 14 Conservative rebels voting for it.


Crossbench peer Lord Curry’s amendment, which would have given the Trade and Agriculture Commission significantly more powers to scrutinise future trade agreements before they are finalised, was not selected for a vote by the Speaker.


More details on the debate HERE [link]


The issue has generated media interest, with the Government under pressure to act from farmers, vets, environmental and animal welfare campaigners, celebrity chefs, consumer groups and the general public, after more than one million people backed the NFU import standards campaign.


NPA chief executive Zoe Davies said: “While not surprising, the Government’s refusal to back the Lords’ amendments is very disappointing and leaves the pig sector vulnerable to cheap imports.


“This is a massive missed opportunity to provide the necessary legal protection and assurance from government that our sector needs. Vague promises about protecting standards are not enough.


“The US, for example, has made it clear that is not prepared to compromise in future trade deals on issues like the use of ractopamine in pigs and sow stalls, which are still widely used in US pig production, but were banned in the UK in 1999. There are also vast differences in areas like environmental protection, piglet castration and antibiotic use.


“The Government has given no clear indication of how, in the absence of legislation, it would prevent imports of significantly cheaper pork from the US and elsewhere produced using methods that are outlawed in the UK.


“Following the UK sow stall ban in 1999, retailers continued to import large volumes of cheaper pork from the EU produced using sow stalls. The impact was catastrophic as UK producers were unable to compete and went out of business – the pig herd halved in size in just a few years. The Government must learn from previous experience and do more to ensure that history is not repeated.”


NFU President Minette Batters, who has campaigned hard on the issue, including many prominent appearance across the media this week said: