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National Food Strategy: Small-scale Family Farms

Volume 699: debated on Thursday 22 July 2021

What steps he is taking to help ensure the National Food Strategy provides a sustainable future for small-scale family farms. (903130)

The Government thank Henry Dimbleby and his team for their work on the independent review of the food system. We are committed to carefully considering the review and its recommendations, and responding in full with a White Paper in the next six months. That will set out our ambition and priorities for the food system to support farms of all sizes and our exceptional food and drink producers.

Does the Secretary of State agree that the heart will be ripped out of the British countryside if small-scale family farms in Kettering and elsewhere go under as a result of industrial agriculture and the relentless pursuit of cheap food? What will he do to ensure that family farms remain an important and permanent feature of rural life?

My hon. Friend makes an important point about the importance of small family farms in our agriculture system. A lot of the economic analysis done by the Government and companies such as AB Agri shows that some of those smaller family farms are technically the most proficient and often the most profitable, as they have attention to detail. The Government are going to be bringing forward more proposals to support new entrants to our farming industry so that we have a vibrant, profitable sector, with farms of all sizes.

The National Food Strategy has recommended that the Government must define the minimum standards we will accept in future free trade deals and a “mechanism for protecting them”. The report says that without that there is “serious peril” that tariff-free deals could not only “compromise” our own attempts to drive up these standards, but allow cheap imports, which would “undercut” our farmers. Given that the Trade and Agriculture Commission already made exactly that recommendation in its March report, almost five months ago, can the Secretary of State tell me when these core standards will be set out and whether that mechanism for defending them will be in place before the Australia deal is signed?

The Government are working on a sanitary and phytosanitary policy statement that will set out the UK’s farm-to-fork approach on these matters, the science of good farm husbandry and how that improves food safety standards. We also have some key things in our legislation, such as bans on the use of hormones in beef and of chlorinated washes. Those are in our legislation and will not change.