IMPORTED food of a provenance far inferior to that produced by Scottish farmers will be allowed into the UK if the Agriculture Bill currently before the Westminster Parliament passes into law without major amendment, Scottish farmers' leaders have warned.

Despite repeated calls from farmers representatives both north and south of the border – and verbal assurances from the numerous politicians who have passed in and out of DEFRA's leadership in recent years – Westminster's plans for agricultural legislation still do not explicitly rule out the future importation of agricultural products produced to lower standards of safety and animal welfare than the current shared UK/EU standards. With Prime Minister Boris Johnson pursuing an Anglo-American trade deal as a political prize, there are genuine fears that the United States' enthusiasm for genetically modified crops and growth hormone-stimulated meat and milk will spill across the Atlantic unless firm legal barriers are maintained.

On the eve of today's (Wednesday 13th May) House of Commons debate on the new Bill, which will be the foundation of UK food and farming policy as Brexit takes our farmers out of Europe's Common Agricultural Policy, the National Farmers Union of Scotland has contacted all Scottish MPs seeking changes that will provide legislated safeguards for consumers and farmers against an influx of food produced using methods that are illegal here.

With food security and public health firmly in the national spotlight, NFU Scotland is calling on legislators to recognise the importance of supporting domestic primary producers to provide a steady and safe supply of food that meets the expectations of a public that is perhaps still unaware of how carefully the EU has been monitoring the standard of imports.

Crucially, while the mechanics of future farm support mechanisms are a devolved matter for the Scottish Parliament to decide, future trade policy is retained by Westminster, as are wide-ranging elements that pertain to things like producer organisations, supply chain contracts, compliance with World Trade Organisation rules and red meat levy repatriation.

Union director of Policy Jonnie Hall said: “Although firmly focussed on Scotland’s own Bill in which the Scottish Government looks to establish our national framework for future agricultural policy, we have a significant interest in the passage of the UK Agriculture Bill, which contains important and far-reaching UK-wide aspects.

“NFUS remains deeply concerned that in the negotiation of new free trade agreements with the EU and other international partners, there will be little protection offered to domestic producers from imported produce that has been produced to lower standards. Our union has joined with the other UK farming unions to pressure the government to establish, as soon as possible, an independently-constituted Trade and Standards Commission which would provide a roadmap for the government to meet its commitment to protect the UK’s high standards of production in future trade policy," said Mr Hall.

“We have also lobbied strongly for provisions within the UK Agriculture Bill to require all food imported into the UK to be produced to at least equivalent food production standards as those required of producers in the UK."

Mr Hall said it was also vital that the approach being taken for English farmers via the UK Agriculture Bill was complementary to the Scottish Government’s policy proposals for Scottish farmers and crofters and that decision-making processes established via the UK Agriculture Bill in terms of future financial and regulatory frameworks ensure that Scottish interests are represented and consulted upon. Crucially, the UK Bill must ensure that the consent of devolved administrations is given on matters concerning these UK-wide frameworks, he said.

For in-depth news and views on Scottish agriculture, see this Friday’s issue of The Scottish Farmer or visit