In my many meetings with farmers across Ynys Môn I have heard very clearly how important food standards are to them. I share their feeling. I stood on a manifesto that also echoed the importance of standards and nothing that has happened in Parliament since the General Election has in any way weakened this.
I recently met in a private meeting with George Eustice MP the DEFRA Secretary of State. The Secretary of State gave me his reassurance and commitment stating:
‘We will protect our farmers, animal welfare and food standards in future trade deals.’
Please be assured – as detailed in our manifesto – that the UK Government will not compromise on our standards. In all of our trade negotiations we will not compromise on our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards. We are firmly committed to upholding our high environmental, food safety and animal welfare standards outside the EU and the EU Withdrawal Act will transfer all existing EU food safety provisions, including existing import requirements onto the UK statute book.
These import standards include a ban on using artificial growth hormones in domestic and imported products and set out that no products, other than potable water ie drinking water and certainly not chlorine, are approved to decontaminate poultry carcasses. Any changes to existing food safety legislation would require new legislation to be brought before this Parliament.
The UK’s food standards, for both domestic production and imports, are overseen by the Food Standards Agency and Food Standards Scotland. These are independent agencies and provide advice to the UK and Scottish governments. Please be assured that they will continue to do so in order to ensure that all food imports comply with the UK’s high safety standards. Decisions on these standards are a matter for the UK and will be made separately from any trade agreement.
We are already engaging with the agricultural sector as part of our trade discussions. The NFU is the agricultural representative on the Government’s Strategic Trade Advisory Group. The Government is determined to ensure that our future trade agreements will deliver benefits for our hard working farmers and food producers.
Trade talks have already formally opened with the US following wide ranging consultation. Ahead of negotiations, the Government set out negotiating objectives, as well as a response to the public consultation and an initial economic assessment. A similar process will be replicated in the coming months, as the government lays out detailed proposals for deals with Japan, Australia and New Zealand.
On the matter of food security, our landmark Agriculture Bill sets out that, for the first time, the Government will have a duty to take a regular, systematic view of our overall food security, at least every five years, giving us enough time to observe key trends from a variety of sources.
Ministers have highlighted that they will not wait to publish the first report.
I understand and appreciate how important farming is to Ynys Môn. I was proud to be democratically elected on a manifesto committed to supporting the farming sector – to free our farmers from the bureaucratic Common Agricultural Policy and to move to a system based on ‘public money for public goods’. In January I was asked to join the Agricultural Bill Committee in the House of Commons. Each week the committee analysed the bill line by line and heard evidence from key representatives across the farming sector. I specifically requested to give my maiden speech in February in the Chamber during the second reading of the Agricultural Bill where I spoke about my passion and commitment for Ynys Môn farmers.
Farming families across Ynys Môn gave me their support during the General Election and I have worked hard to repay their trust by supporting the farming community particularly during the Coronavirus crisis; I have successfully worked with DEFRA to establish a hardship fund for farmers and for specific support for the dairy sector. I regularly meet and engage with the NFU, the FUW, the Anglesey Young Farmers Federation and DEFRA Ministers. As an elected member of the Welsh Affairs Select Committee I have heard first-hand how the livelihoods and families of farmers across Wales are being affected by COVID-19 and how important it is that we support them once we are through this crisis.
I had a meeting with the Prime Minister recently to discuss my priorities for Ynys Môn. I was very clear about how strongly I felt about protecting our farmers livelihoods – he replied:
‘I am determined to defend our standards and I will insist on protecting animal welfare as the price of accessing our markets’.
All parts of the UK should be rightly proud of our world-leading food, health and animal welfare standards and we will not lower our standards as we negotiate new trade deals. As the MP for Ynys Môn my goal is to promote jobs, skilled employment and investment – and this includes the farming community here. We are currently facing unprecedented times and as I am sure you appreciate – I and my team are subsequently dealing with an unprecedented amount of casework.