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Devon MPs must use last chance to back farmers, Lib Dems say

November 3, 2020 3:20 PM

cows - landscapeLiberal Democrats across Devon have called on the county's Conservative MPs to back British farming this week and vote to protect our high environmental and animal welfare standards.

In a letter to the ten Tory MPs representing Devon, their Lib Dem opponents from 2019 warned them not to "risk farmers' livelihoods to win a favourable trade deal from Donald Trump".

The votes come on Wednesday [04/11/2020] in amendments to the Agriculture Bill. The Liberal Democrats want MPs to ensure any post-Brexit trade deals meet UK animal welfare and food safety rules.

"The Conservatives must not risk farmers' livelihoods to win a favourable trade deal from Donald Trump," they said. "If our county's MPs truly want to back our farmers, then they must vote to ensure any post-Brexit trade deals meet UK animal welfare and food safety rules.

"British farmers are the lifeblood of our country, they are the guardians of our landscapes, vital partners in the fight against climate change, all while producing the high quality food that fills our cupboards. However, the Government seems happy to risk all that.

"If they don't support these amendments, their promises of supporting UK agriculture are nothing but hot air and they risk the future of our farms, to win a favourable trade deal with the US."

According to the NFU, over a million people have signed their petition calling for the UK Government to put laws in place that prevent imports of food that is produced in ways that are illegal here in the UK.

Torridge farmer Baz Meeson said: "With this amendment being rejected by many MPs, we cannot but help struggle to see how working to a higher standard will benefit us. When an MP operates in a rural area, and isn't concerned with how their votes can impact local industries, are they really the 'representative' of the people they're made out to be?"

Liberal Democrat Rural Affairs Spokesperson Tim Farron said: "Farmers across the country are incredibly worried that the UK is about to be flooded with poor quality food undercutting their high quality produce.

"It doesn't need to be this way. Liberal Democrats back British farming and want to work in partnership with our farmers to help cut greenhouse gas emissions, support the recovery of our natural environment all while continuing to produce the food that fills our cupboards."

Rev Susanna Metz, a relief milker on a dairy farm in Torridge, summed up the feeling of many farmers in a letter read out at Torridge District Council:

"Do we want to see food from countries that can undersell us because of their, quite frankly, unethical and immoral agricultural practices, coming on to our store shelves? I hope to God not, but to be honest, I wonder when I read how our government is responding to the desperate attempts of our farmers to have their voices heard…

"We must demand that our government listens to us and makes decisions that support ethical and moral practices in the food industry and that support our British farmers. People with whom I've lived and worked in the US constantly tell me how envious they are of our food system over here. They say, "You don't want what we have here." I can only hope that our voices will be heard and that this government will review and reverse their vote against upholding the standards of our food production."

The letter was signed by:

Eleanor Rylance, Candidate for East Devon

Alison Eden, Candidate for Central Devon

Alex White, Candidate for North Devon

John Timperley, Candidate for Tiverton & Honiton

Martin Wrigley, Candidate for Newton Abbot

Lee Howgate, Candidate for Torbay

Sima Davarian, Candidate for South West Devon

David Chalmers, Candidate for Torridge & West Devon

Caroline Voaden, former MEP for SW England & Gibraltar