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NFU launches farm manifesto as UK politicians vie for votes

PUBLISHED: 17:15 14 November 2019 | UPDATED: 17:15 14 November 2019

National Farmers' Union president Minette Batters spoke at the Norfolk NFU branch's centenary AGM in Norwich. Picture: Chris Hill

National Farmers' Union president Minette Batters spoke at the Norfolk NFU branch's centenary AGM in Norwich. Picture: Chris Hill

Chris Hill

Farmers' leaders warned that a no-deal Brexit would be "economically and socially catastrophic" as they launched their own manifesto in the run-up to the December general election.

The NFU manifesto is calling for the UK's high food standards to be applied to imports  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNThe NFU manifesto is calling for the UK's high food standards to be applied to imports Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

The National Farmers' Union (NFU) called for UK environmental, animal welfare and food safety standards to be protected as it warned against allowing cheap food imports to flood the market.

It expressed concerned that post-Brexit trade deals could "open the floodgates" to food from places such as the United States, where food was produce to different standards to those imposed on British farmers.

Such a move could UK undermine standards or drive British producers out of business, it warned.

NFU president Minette Batters said it would be "insane" for prime minister Boris Johnson and members of his cabinet to promote the idea of higher standards domestically while potentially allowing imports of food produced to low standards.

The NFU manifesto calls for high environmental standards  Picture: ANDY HAY/ RSPBThe NFU manifesto calls for high environmental standards Picture: ANDY HAY/ RSPB

The NFU pointed to the controversial issue of potentially importing US chickens reared in dense conditions and chlorine washed.

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"We should be proud of our standards on animal welfare, environmental protection and the phenomenal levels of food safety that we have driven," she said.

"That should be absolutely paramount for any government and any government that steps back from those values should really be held to account in the court of public opinion.

"This isn't just about farmers, this is about each and every citizen, this is about the political decisions you make with the food you put on your plate."

The NFU would "name and shame any politician" that tried to jeopardise those standards, she warned.

The farmer' lobby group is calling for a deal that maintains market access to the European Union, which is as "free and frictionless" as possible, for the 62% of food and drink exports that go to Europe.

The NFU manifesto sets out demands to maintain access to seasonal and permanent workers and ensure current levels of funding for farming are maintained and delivered over seven-year planning periods.

It also includes calls for broadband delivery, renewed efforts to tackle rural crime such as fly-tipping and hare-coursing and support to cut the sector's emissions to net zero by 2040.

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