Sussex farmer’s call to support farmers in trade deals

Farming holds a special place within the hearts of people in south east England. It is central to our rural communities and the beautiful landscapes many of us walk and enjoy across Britain.

We love the family farm and what it stands for and how it fits into our rich rural history.

As I write, a landmark piece of farming legislation – the Agriculture Bill – is in the House of Commons for its final journey before becoming law. I need your help to make sure this Bill supports our farmers, food and landscapes. Here’s why.

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The south east is home to over 13,000 farming businesses. We have a rich history of mixed farming, from grazing livestock and apple orchards, to fields of barley and golden wheat.

A picturesque Sussex landscape

Many of the local family farms here in counties like West Sussex, have been part of the fabric of our rural communities for generations. I have been lucky to be part of this community myself, so I would love to see our strong traditions upheld for years to come.

There has also been a revival in food culture in the UK. This is down to both the amazing work farmers do to produce great quality ingredients and the food businesses who have made our local food products some of the most envied in the world; like Sussex blue cheese and the barley used in Harvey’s beer.

The prospect of our hard-working farmers struggling for business due to being undercut by cheaper exports from overseas, is a worrying possibility. We need to support them now more than ever.

The Agriculture Bill will return to the House of Commons in the coming days. It has just made its way through the House of Lords, where peers added an amendment that would ensure British family farms and British food standards are safeguarded in future international trade negotiations.

These potential trade deals could undermine our farmers and lead to much more low quality food swamping supermarket shelves, so we need to make sure they are fair and in the best interest of the British people. In talks about food and trade, we usually hear about chlorine-washed chicken and hormone-treated beef, but both countries also use pesticides that are banned in the UK and overuse antibiotics to make up for the cramped conditions of intensive poultry and cattle units (and you may notice I do not use the word farm, which is for a good reason).

These ways of producing food are banned in the UK because evidence suggests they pose human health concerns and are simply not a good life for these animals.

According to the USA Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 14.7 per cent of Americans fall sick due to food related illnesses each year. That is a much greater percentage of the population when compared to only 1.5 per cent of Britons as estimated by the Food Standards Agency.

As a nation, we should be proud of the high food and farming standards that our south east England farmers love to work to. Without them, we would not have the same breath-taking countryside, coupled with our world-beating food and produce. That is a good enough reason to ensure that safeguarding these standards is enshrined in law, so that farmers can continue to champion these values.

That is why I am calling on our Members of Parliament (MP) to support the amendment to the Agriculture Bill that will do just that. It is also in your hands; now is the time to tell your local MP that you support British farming, and they should too.

You can support this by visiting Sustain: The Alliance for Better Food and Farming’s website (www.sustainweb.org). From there you are just one click away from contacting your local MP and asking them to stand up in Parliament for our local farmers and countryside.

Daniel Burdett is an organic dairy farmer who looks after a herd of happy cows in West Sussex