Farmer organisations and environmental groups in the UK are singing off the same hymn sheet when it comes to food import policy.

Comments made by the chief executive of a major conservation charity on Thursday could have come from any farmer representative.

“There is a huge risk that farmers in the UK will get undercut by imported food produced to lower standards. That is clearly the concern around ongoing trade negotiations, particularly with the US,” Rebecca Speight from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) said.

Green lobby

The UK government has listened to the green lobby on domestic agricultural policy and the plan is for farm support payments in England to be based solely on environmental measures.

However, speaking at an online Oxford Farming Conference event, Speight said that this would be undermined by allowing imports of cheap food from other countries.

“All the good progress that we feel has been made in terms of framing of the Ag Bill, particularly around public money for public goods, will be completely undermined if we get the trade deals wrong,” she said.

The RSPB has backed the National Farmers’ Union call for legislation to be introduced which makes it a legal requirement for food imports to match the environmental, food safety and animal welfare standards that are required of UK farmers.

“That is how fundamental trade is to a long-term view of sustainability and a resilient food system,” Speight said.

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