The UK’s farming unions will all be part of the government’s new trade and agriculture commission, with the scope of its work now confirmed.
The commission will advise government on how to seize new export opportunities, while ensuring the UK’s high animal welfare and environmental standards in food production are not undermined.
The English, Scottish and Welsh branches of the National Farmers Union (NFU) are all represented, as are the Ulster Farmers Union and the Farmers’ Union of Wales. Other members include the British Retail Council, UK Hospitality, and the Food and Drink Federation.
The commission, reporting to international trade secretary Liz Truss, has a fixed term of six months, and will produce an advisory paper to be presented to parliament.
The commission will advise on how to advance and protect British consumer interests and those of developing countries, and how the UK engages the World Trade Organization to build a coalition that helps improve animal welfare standards worldwide.
How the government can develop trade policy that identifies and opens up new export opportunities for the UK farming industry – in particular for small and medium-sized enterprises – and that benefits the UK economy as a whole, will also be part of the commission’s advisory remit.
The scope of the commission was agreed after close consultation between farming unions, the Department for International Trade and Defra.
Tim Smith, a former chief executive of the Food Standards Agency and Tesco group technical director, will chair the commission.
NFU president Minette Batters said the announcement was a “hugely important development” in ensuring UK farming’s high standards of animal welfare and environmental protection are not undermined in future trade deals.
“It addresses a crucial element of a much broader challenge in ensuring the UK’s trade policy delivers a prosperous and sustainable future for UK agriculture.
“This means securing trade deals that work for UK farmers and consumers, as well as our farmed animals and our environment, and we will continue to work with parliamentarians so they have proper oversight of our trade policy.”
But lobby group Sustain was less enthusiastic, describing the new body as “toothless”.
“This commission is stacked with industry representatives and no serious health, environment or consumer champions. There is no guarantee that anyone will even listen to their recommendations,” said chief executive Kath Dalmeny.
“Government is conducting trade negotiations in secret and refuses to protect our food and farming standards in law.
“It says this Commission will report back in six months, which is after the first trade deals are due to be signed. This is not good enough – our food, farming and environmental standards are at stake.”
Commission members in full
- Ex-Tesco tech director/FSA – Tim Smith (chairman)
- NFU England – Nick von Westenholz
- NFU Scotland – Andrew McCornick
- NFU Cymru – John Davies
- Ulster Farmers Union – Victor Chestnutt
- The Farmers Union of Wales – Glyn Roberts
- Lamb farmer – Rob Hodgkins
- Institute of Economics Affairs- Shanker Singham
- Former chief veterinary officer – Nigel Gibbens
- British Retail Consortium – Andrew Opie
- Former trade minister – Lord Price
- Trade Out Of Poverty – Tom Pengelly
- Former trade minister and agriculture minister for New Zealand – Sir Lockwood Smith
- UK Hospitality – Kate Nicholls
- Food and Drink Federation – Ian Wright CBE
- Linking Environment and Food – Caroline Drummond