Robin Page, is warning that changes stemming from a potential trade-deal that could lower agricultural standards would be “an economic disaster for our farmers and our rural communities, and an environmental disaster for our farmland wildlife.”

2020 looks set to be a year of changes in the agricultural sector, many derived from leaving the European Union, and the implementation of a new Agriculture Bill. We'reworried that a proposed trade deal with America may reduce standards in both food quality and animal welfare if agreed before the Agricultural Bill is passed. 

The CRT produces quality food and an abundance of wildlife. For example, its Lark Rise Farm, in East Anglia produces prime wheat, barley and oats as well as providing a nurturing environment for barn owls, otters, skylarks, brown hares, water voles and award-winning numbers of grey partridge.

Any trade deal that encourages lower food standards could force UK farmers to try and compete through agricultural intensification and this could ultimately impact on habitats for farmland wildlife.

Tim Scott - Lark Rise FarmLark Rise farmer Tim Scott explains: “This is all about economies of scale. Smaller farmers will have to intensify to compete with the lower prices of imported foods but will be unable to make as much profit – meaning that many may struggle to survive.”

Consequently he is worried by the possibility that smaller farms may be absorbed by large farming entities and communities will lose their local farmer.

“It’s the ‘smaller’ farmers that know the land, the soil, the wildlife and habitats across their property,” he adds. “Upscaling to intensified farming could destroy this intimate knowledge and force wildlife to look for habitats elsewhere.”

Mr Scott is also concerned that it could have a detrimental impact on the rural communities that farmers support. Farmers often sit on parish councils and carry out maintenance and other jobs, for free – thus reducing the burden on local councils.

The impact of the coronavirus lockdown has reinforced the need for local food production and greater self-sufficiency as supermarket shelves were cleared within days. The livelihoods of our farmers, our communities and our wildlife need to be closely considered during these trade agreement negotiations.

“Within the next month, the CRT is acquiring a new farm in Dorset to be developed into an agricultural visitor and educational centre,” says Mr Page.

“Here people will be able to learn where their food comes from and experience some of the wildlife that share the land with us.

“We want people to eat and buy food from farms that grow food in a wildlife friendly way and will make no attempt to intensify and farm industrially to compete with American farmers.”

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