Orkney and Shetland MP, Alistair Carmichael, has called for the creation of a Food Standards Commission in light of reports that food produced to a lower standard could be brought in from the United States under a future trade deal, undercutting UK farmers and crofters. Ministers have previously denied that “chlorinated chicken” and other low-cost foods could be allowed in a new trade deal, but press reports on Thursday suggested that the government plans to open up the UK market under a “dual tariff” scheme.
A Food Standards Commission, also supported by the NFUS, would ensure that all of the food we eat, either at home, in our schools, our hospitals, and in cafes and restaurants when they re-open, is produced to the same standards of food safety, animal welfare and environmental protection.
Mr Carmichael said:
“We need a Food Standards Commission now, to ensure that the government cannot undermine our farmers and crofters through underhand policy changes. We are rightly proud in the Northern Isles of having some of the highest standards of produce in the world. Farmers and consumers alike deserve peace of mind about fair standards and fair prices for the food we produce and eat.
“I am astonished that the government has leapt directly from denying earlier this year that lower food standards would be permitted to defending this policy turn wholeheartedly. Undercutting farmers and crofters is not what was promised about the “brave new world” of future trade deals.
“It is concerning that the government seems more interested in carrying water for Donald Trump and his “America First” mentality than in supporting our farmers. The government should be accountable to the people they represent, not the whims of US negotiators.”
Speaking in the House earlier in the week, Mr Carmichael highlighted the potential impact to farmers and crofters in the Northern Isles:
“I would like to hear what the Government’s response is to press reports today that the Government are set to open British markets to food products produced to lower US standards as part of the trade deal with Donald Trump. This was the rhetoric we were given by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster: he told us that there would never be chlorinated chicken on our plate.
“Now, in fact, we hear that as a consequence of the so-called dual tariff process it is quite possible that we will see such products being imported to this country. In fact, we are told that the Secretary of State for International Trade is arguing that these tariffs should be reduced to zero over 10 years, giving farmers time to adjust to the new “normal”.
“For the farmers and crofters in my constituency, it will be a hard reality for them to survive in. Because we are a long distance from the market, we have not gone for mass-produced food. We have sought to improve the quality of the products we have and put into market with a view to export. Tariffs on those export markets will be absolutely fatal to the agricultural interests of the highlands and islands.”
Responding for the government, the Paymaster General, Penny Mordaunt MP, said:
“I fully understand why he may be sceptical about trusting the government, but trust the people. They value animal welfare, we should trust the consumer and there are massive opportunities for our farmers for rest of world trade.”