NFU and WWF call for introduction of core standards for all agri-food imports

26 March 2024

A trade cargo ship

Photograph: Rawf8 / Alamy Stock Photo

The NFU and WWF have written to the three main political parties in England calling for action to safeguard British farmers and growers from food imports that would be illegal to produce here.

The letter paves the way for a set of core standards to be introduced, and asks for political leaders, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Leader of the Labour Party Sir Keir Starmer and Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey, to make a manifesto commitment to the formation of a core standards commission.

This would look at the practicalities and legal requirements to ensure imported food meets the same environmental and animal welfare standards as those adhered to by UK farmers.

The joint action comes as the UK Government continues to open up our market to agri-food imports from across the world – only last week the UK’s membership of the CPTPP (Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership) trade deal cleared its final hurdle before being ratified, and the UK Government launched trade talks with Turkey.

System of core standards

NFU President Tom Bradshaw said: “This joint letter represents the strength and breadth of feeling on this issue of production standards for food imported into the UK; it must meet the same production standards as asked of our farmers. It is what the British people expect and its time a system of core standards was properly established in UK law.

“Trade is hugely important and the NFU has campaigned successfully to ensure our farmers and growers are not disadvantaged by food imported into the UK produced to standards that would be illegal here. One million people signed our petition, so we know this matters to people.

“A commission able to develop these core standards is the first real step to making core standards a workable reality.”

This joint letter represents the strength and breadth of feeling on this issue of production standards for food imported into the UK.”

NFU President Tom Bradshaw

The NFU’s food standards petition was launched during 2020. Signed by more than 1 million people, it called for the government to ensure all UK food imports match the high standards of production that British producers must follow, and to prevent imports of food that is produced in ways that are illegal in the UK.

Commit to a commission

Tanya Steele, Chief Executive of WWF, said: “For too long UK trade policy has rewarded environmentally harmful food production overseas while undermining farmers who are making strides towards greener farming practices.

“Together with the NFU, we are calling for all parties to commit to a commission to establish core standards in trade. Farmers and businesses would welcome this and there is clear support from the public to stop fuelling the destruction of nature.

“By setting core standards we would uphold our national climate and nature targets, reduce our contribution to the destruction of nature, and create a level playing field for UK farmers working hard to produce food to higher standards.

“There is no time to lose if we are to secure a resilient and nature-rich future for food and farming in the UK.”

You can read the letter in full below which was sent to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Leader of the Labour Party Sir Keir Starmer and Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey:

NFU and WWF joint letter on trade policy

Food security: the NFU campaign so far

February 2024

NFU meets with Defra

NFU President Tom Bradshaw met Defra Secretary Steve Barclay MP and reiterated the NFU’s steadfast call for fairness for British farmers and growers in all future trade deals.

January 2024

UK suspends trade talks with Canada

In keeping with the NFU’s principles for balanced trade negotiations, the government suspended UK-Canada trade talks having assessed that the deal would undermine our high food standards.

May 2023

Food security summit hosted at Number 10

10 Downing Street holds a food summit to take action on a raft of NFU policy asks and 'champion UK food and drink'.

With the NFU having consistently called for more agri attachés to promote British food and drink to new markets around the globe, the Prime Minister announced that the number of attachés will be increased to 16 by May 2024.

April 2023

MPs debate food security

Following relentless NFU campaigning MPs focus on the actions needed to ensure a secure supply of British food during a Westminster Hall debate. On the same day NFU President Minette Batters gives evidence to the Environmental Audit Committee.

March 2023

Public support closes in on 50,000

More than 40,000 people add their name to our calls for the UK Government to set a food security target, monitor production levels and host a summit in 2023.

February 2023

'Clock is ticking' warns NFU President

Amid scenes of empty shelves across the nation Minette Batters tells the NFU's annual conference that unless robust commitments to food security are delivered by the UK Government then shelves could be empty again later in the year.

January 2023

The Food & Drink Export Council meets for the first time

The NFU focuses its Back British Farming campaign on galvanising public support for a secure supply of homegrown food on British shelves to ensure stocks never run out.

Following this significant push from the NFU to grow our exports, the government established the Food and Drink Export Council, bringing together industry experts and devolved governments to promote British exports abroad.

December 2022

Minette Batters goes to Number 10

NFU President Minette Batters meets Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to double down on commitments to set a food security target and host a UK wide annual summit.

December 2022

Emergency press conference

The NFU calls an emergency press conference as farmers and growers say they are being unfairly treated as supply chains struggle to keep shelves stocked.

November 2022

Food part of our national security says former MI5 Director General

Speaking at the fifth annual Henry Plumb lecture the former MI5 Director General The Right Honourable Baroness Manningham-Buller LG DCB called for the UK produce as much of its own food as possible, as she set out the three C’s of challenges to food security in the 21st century – climate, covid, and conflict.

August 2022

Race to become Prime Minister

The NFU secures food security commitments from leadership candidates Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak as they bid to become the next Prime Minister.

April 2022

NFU sets out vision to grow exports

The NFU set out a detailed strategy outlining its ambition to grow the UK’s food, drink and agricultural exports by 30% by 2030, bringing the total value of UK agri-food exports to over £30 billion.

November 2021

UK Government announces eight new agriculture attachés

Following sustained NFU campaigning, Defra recruits eight new agri-food attachés to help boost the UK’s agri-food exports, bringing the total number of dedicated UK agri-food attachés to 11. Find out more

November 2020

Scrutiny of trade deals secured in law

After extensive campaigning by the NFU, the government agreed to put in law a system that means each new free trade deal will be scrutinised by parliament for its impact on animal welfare and British farming before it’s ratified. This is why an official Trade and Agriculture Commission is a victory for British farming and the future of food on our plates.

September 2020

Jamie Oliver applies more pressure of government

After working closely with the NFU's food standards campaign Jamie Oliver launches his own new campaign which highlights how trade deals that are currently being negotiated will impact on the food on our plates for years to come. He's joined by Joe Wicks, Anita Rani and a host of well-known faces. Take a look.

July 2020

Government answers our calls for a commission

The UK Government answers our calls for a Trade, Food and Farming Standards Commission to advise on the best ways to maintain high food production standards in any future trade deals.

June 2020

Our food standards petition hits one million signatures

More than a million people pledged their support for our petition by 18 June. It is the clearest indication yet that the British public does not want to see food on their supermarket shelves, or in their restaurants and cafes, that falls below the standards British farmers adhere to.

June 2020

Thousands of supporters email their MP

We invited those people who took the time to sign our petition, to email their MP. 78,000 people took this action and called on their MP for the establishment of a Trade, Food and Farming Standards commission.

May 2020

NFU secures support from Jamie Oliver

Chef and campaigner Jamie Oliver wrote an open letter to the Prime Minister in the Mail on Sunday as part of the newspaper's 'Save Our Family Farms' campaign, asking him to prevent 'opening the floodgates to a whole raft of low-quality food that would normally be illegal in the UK'. A video he posted on Facebook sparked an overwhelming response from the British public. Delia Smith followed suit a few days later, urging her fans to sign our petition and bolstering support for our campaign even further.

Februaury 2020

NFU launches food standards campaign petition

We launched our petition calling on the UK government to put laws in place that prevent imports of food that is produced in ways that are illegal in the UK.

January 2020

NFU leads the charge on food standards and trade deals as Brexit looms

The NFU mobilised a huge coalition of farming, environmental, animal welfare and public health organisations to write a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson to ask that high British food standards are protected in future trade deals.

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