Should Wales worry about the future of food in post-Brexit Britain?

Credit: PA

In a Wales which is still fighting a global pandemic, it might be easy to forget that it is still only just over four months since Britain officially left the European Union. We are now nearly halfway through the Brexit transition period - and a time some say is critical to getting a trade deal with the EU.

As negotiators look to seal that deal, and as Wales looks for new opportunities to trade with the rest of the world, one of the key pieces of fresh legislation to take shape in post-Brexit Britain is the Agriculture Bill and the future of our food.

Farmers have argued that coronavirus has brought food security into sharp focus Credit: ITV Wales

What we eat affects us all, and farmers say we should all care about where our food comes from. The new Bill has many strands and many parts, but one of the biggest controversies is what it does not yet contain.

Farmers have argued that the coronavirus crisis - and the threat of food shortages - has brought food security into sharp focus. They want ministers to make it illegal to import cheaper food produced to lower safety standards than ours in any post-Brexit trade deals with other countries.

If a trade deal was struck between Britain and the US for example, the kind of products they would want banned are beef fed with artificial hormones and chicken washed in chlorine. But last month a motion to protect British standards was rejected by MPs in the House of Commons.

Farmers want imports of beef fed with artificial hormones and chicken washed in chlorine banned Credit: PA

Yesterday peers sitting in the House of Lords spent hours discussing the issue. It followed a campaign by the NFU and NFU Cymru which saw close to a million people sign a petition calling for food standards to be enshrined in law.

The proposal was backed by high profile celebrity chefs and environmental organisations like Friends of the Earth Cymru. The agreement between the latter and farming unions has been considered a landmark moment. Farmers and environmentalists have often clashed in the past.

But their joint determination to see this go a step further could be paying off. There appeared to be an almost universal consensus among peers that farmed animal welfare standards should not be weakened, and that ministerial assurances alone are not enough to protect them.

So, it certainly seems as if this debate is likely to go on for a long time yet.

  • In the meantime, I have been getting the thoughts of the Welsh farming community.