The NFU has been calling for Government action over free-trade deals, which could see cheap imported meat and items such as chlorinated chicken hit the UK market.
In May, the Government voted against an amendment to the UK’s Agriculture Bill that would have guaranteed high standards for food and drink entering the country post-Brexit.
In response, more than 1m people signed a petition, set up by the NFU, urging the Government to ensure future trade deals did not lead to an increase in imported foods that would be illegal to produce in the UK.
The public wave of support followed renewed calls from the NFU for the Government to implement a free trade agreement with the EU.
The Government has agreed “in principle” to set up a Trade & Agriculture Commission to make recommendations for UK agricultural trade policy. It would not be a quango or regulator and would be time-limited.
It would focus on considering the policies the Government should adopt in any free trade deals to ensure UK farmers did not face unfair competition and ensure high animal welfare and production standards were not undermined. It said it would also consider how the UK engaged with the World Trade Organization to help advance better animal welfare standards across the world, as well as developing a trade policy that opened up new export opportunities
In a letter to NFU president Minette Batters, secretary of state for international trade Elizabeth Truss wrote: “I wholeheartedly agree that any trade deal the UK strikes must be fair and reciprocal to our farmers, and must not compromise on our high standards of food and animal welfare.
She added: “I am encouraged that the NFU supports the UK’s broad objectives in promoting free trade deals that can open up significant new exporting opportunities for the UK farming industry.”
Batters said the NFU would continue to scrutinise the progress of trade negotiations with the US and other countries over the coming months. She also called for Parliament to have a strengthened role in this regard
“I am very pleased that the Government is taking concrete action to address the challenges of safeguarding our high food and farming standards by agreeing to set up a Trade & Agriculture Commission – something we first called for over 18 months ago. This is a hugely important development,” said Batters.
“We look forward to working with Government and other stakeholders in the days ahead on the Commission’s terms of reference, to ensure that its work is genuinely valuable. In particular, it will be vital that Parliament is able to properly consider the Commission’s recommendations and can ensure Government implements them effectively.”