Amy Eggleston: World standards mean rigorous farm inspections

Animal welfare, environmental impact and traceability are three heavily scrutinised topics for the farming industry.

As agriculture moves forward, so does the focus on these issues and external interest continues to grow.

Farm standard schemes in this country exist to maintain a consistency across these areas, however is there still further to go?

The Covid-19 pandemic has undoubtedly put food in the spotlight. Recent research by the Farm Retail Association (FRA) found that 92% of farm retailers reported a significant rise in new customers since lockdown rules began.

See also: Amy Eggleston: Time off from farming makes you safer

It was a silver lining for us all to see customers buying locally and supporting UK produce once again.

This was in no small part due to the way we guarantee food of the highest standards in the world (it was telling that more than one million people signed an NFU petition this year calling on UK government to ensure all food imports are produced to the same high standards as those of British farmers).

With the nation supporting local food more than ever, we should be working to improve our assurance schemes to ensure all farms are constantly coming up to scratch

I am in no way doubting the level of our current standards or downplaying the effort that goes into achieving them. But I do question if there’s still more we can do to ensure they are implemented consistently.

If we want to continue to lead the world standards in animal welfare, environmental impact and traceability, we need to strive to constantly improve.

With the nation supporting local food more than ever, we should be working to improve our assurance schemes to ensure all farms are constantly coming up to scratch.

After speaking to others in the industry, it seems my thoughts are echoed – particularly by those in younger age groups.

Many expressed a concern that there is still a lot more we can do to avoid jeopardising the reputation of everyone.

Some thought that standards could be tighter, but most people said it was more important that standards were implemented year-round, using spontaneous or unannounced checks.

If we are as proud of our farms as we say we are (and yes, we should be), then why should unannounced visits be a problem?

Assurance schemes shouldn’t be designed to catch us out, but to support the production of consistent, quality produce.

We shout about how high quality our food is, so let’s be prepared to stand by it, 365 days a year.

Our food is produced to a global leading standard, let’s ensure no one can argue otherwise.

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