NFU representing farming as member of Trade and Agriculture Commission

Minette Batters, NFU President, in the garden outside the head office, November 4th 2019

The Department for International Trade (DIT) has announced the membership and terms of reference for its new Trade and Agriculture Commission.

The Commission will advise the government on trade policies it should adopt to ensure animal welfare and environmental standards are not undermined and that will secure opportunities for UK farmers.

The NFU successfully lobbied for the establishment of a commission on food standards to help address the challenges of safeguarding the high production standards of British farmers, with a high-profile campaign including a public petition containing more than 1m signatures.

The Commission will be chaired by Tim Smith, a former chief executive of the Food Standards Agency and Tesco Group technical director, and will report directly to International Trade Secretary Liz Truss.

Commission scope

The scope of the Commission was agreed after close consultation between DIT, Defra and the NFU, alongside other stakeholders.

It will be set up for six months and submit an advisory report at the end of its work which will be presented to Parliament.

It will advise on:

  • Trade policies the government should adopt to secure opportunities for UK farmers, while ensuring the sector remains competitive and that animal welfare and environmental standards in food production are not undermined.
  • Advancing and protecting British consumer interests and those of developing countries.
  • How the UK engages the WTO to build a coalition that helps advance higher animal welfare standards across the world.
  • Developing trade policy that identifies and opens up new export opportunities for the UK agricultural industry – in particular for SMEs – and that benefits the UK economy as a whole.

NFU President Minette Batters said:

“Today’s announcement regarding the Trade and Agriculture Commission is a hugely important development in our campaign to ensure UK farming’s high standards of animal welfare and environmental protection are not undermined in future trade deals. It is, however, one part of a much broader challenge our farmers face in ensuring the UK’s trade policy delivers a prosperous and sustainable future for them.

“Alongside the work of the Commission, we will continue to engage directly with government on the bilateral negotiations that are underway, to make sure our future trade deals smooth the way for a growth in exports of our great British produce. But this must not come at any cost – if the deal on the table means unfair competition for UK farmers in our home market, then our negotiators must be prepared to walk away. We must not agree a trade deal just for the sake of agreeing a trade deal, and the UK’s high standards must not become a bargaining chip. Regardless of the Commission’s work, we will continue to scrutinise all and any negotiations over the months and years ahead to get the best outcome for British farmers and consumers alike."

Mrs Batters continued:

“The work of the Commission will be of little value if Parliament is not given a greater say in the trade deals we do strike. The current arrangements for MP oversight of trade agreements are part of a system designed in a bygone era of international treaties. In today’s world of sophisticated supply chains, multilateral trading rules and extensive and complex regulatory frameworks, it must be brought up to date.

“Taking back control means an independent trade policy that works for UK businesses, workers and consumers. But taking back control is meaningless if our sovereign Parliament isn’t given a clear voice on whether trade deals meet those outcomes, as is the norm with countries all over the world. Our trade partners will be giving their Parliaments the final say on any trade deals they do with the UK – we must do likewise."

“These priorities – trade deals that work for UK farmers and consumers, as well as our farmed animals and our environment, and a modern day system of Parliamentary oversight of our trade policy – will be underpinned by the important work of the Trade and Agriculture Commission in the months ahead, and the NFU stands ready to contribute whatever technical expertise it can so that the Commission can do this job as quickly and robustly as possible.

“It must produce a detailed roadmap on farm to fork trade policy for Parliament so MPs can understand what is required to ensure UK farming’s high production standards are safeguarded in our international trade policy. The Commission must also be able to scrutinise the details of our current trade negotiations, and advise Parliament accordingly, and it should set out a long-term vision for UK leadership on the global stage in promoting sustainable and climate friendly models of food production across the world."

“The independence of the Commission is paramount, as is its accountability to Parliament, and Ministers must set out to MPs how they intend to implement its recommendations. The role of the independent Chair will be critical, and we look forward to working with him in the weeks ahead to ensure the Commission meets the expectations and ambitions of all the consumers, campaigners and farmers who have demonstrated over recent months how important this issue is.

“I remain ambitious and optimistic about the future of farming in our country. We produce to some of the highest standards in the world, our unique selling point as we open up markets overseas. But it mustn’t become our Achilles heel by forcing farmers to compete with producers who aren’t required to shoulder the same cost burdens. We must now make sure that the Commission, our negotiators and our Parliament are all properly equipped to ensure a prosperous and sustainable future for UK agriculture.”

Commission members

  • NFU - Nick von Westenholz
  • NFU Scotland - Andrew McCornick
  • NFU Cymru - John Davies
  • Ulster Farmers Union - Victor Chestnutt
  • The Farmers Union of Wales – Glyn Roberts
  • Lamb Farmer - Rob Hodgkins
  • Institute of Economics Affairs- Shanker Singham
  • Former Chief Veterinary Officer - Nigel Gibbens
  • British Retail Consortium - Andrew Opie
  • Former Trade Minister - Lord Price
  • Trade Out Of Poverty - Tom Pengelly
  • Former Trade Minister and Agriculture Minister for New Zealand - Sir Lockwood Smith
  • UK Hospitality - Kate Nicholls
  • Food and Drink Federation - Ian Wright CBE
  • LEAF - Caroline Drummond

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