Breixt: Tipperary farm leaders concerned over US foodstuff and meat lowering standards
Two Tipperary farm leaders have voiced concerns over news that the US will look to impose its food and farming standards under any trade deal done with the UK after Brexit.
The demands were revealed last weekend and include allowing the US to export chlorinated chickens as well as hormone-fed beef to the UK. There may also be some movement on pork production.
According to reports in the UK’s Guardian newspaper, the office of the US trade representative has said that it was seeking comprehensive market access for US agricultural products to the UK.
A change in standards after Brexit would also have ramifications for an open border as it would fuel fears that banned goods could seep into the food chain through cross-border production of meat and dairy products, the reports said.
“To a huge food producing county like Tipperary, it’s difficult to overstate the extent of what’s at stake”, said Pat McCormack, president of the ICMSA.
And North Tipperary IFA chair Imelda Walsh said all the concerns farmers have about the UK adopting a cheap food policy would be borne out.
“It’s perfectly obvious that the US is going to insist on their agri-exports being included in any Free Trade Agreement with the UK,” said Mr McCormack.
Liam Fox didn’t seem to have any problem with that, but Michael Gove did to judge by recents comments to the NFU, he said.
ICMSA would think that the UK will have to concede on this if they want that Free Trade Deal - and they desperately will want it - so Liam Fox will win out over Michael Gove, he said
“That will mean US food standards in the UK and that will mean that there will be attention from other member states on our border with the North. This has been a gruelling process for Irish farmers and it’s not over yet, by a long shot,” said the Tipperary town farmer.
Mr McCormack said that the main concerns for his dairy farmer membership had remained constant and focused on the need for continued access on their traditional British markets on a tariff-free and quota-less basis.
“To be honest, where we are now, at the proverbial five minutes to midnight, we’d settle for any degree of certainty that allowed us to continue selling into our UK markets on a basis that resembled as closely as possible the present arrangements,” he said.
However, he said that they would have to be realistic and accept that any changes will necessarily disimprove the situation.
“That’s why the aid funding will have to be ready as quickly as possible and must go to the farmers and primary producers, not the agencies or processors,” he said.
Mr McCormack said that we would need to know what supports were there from both the Government and the EU, and they will have to be available immediately and without the kind of hoops and hurdles that sometimes undermine these kinds of emergency aid.
Ms Walsh said that IFA was concerned that hormone-fed beef and chlorinated chicken and dairy products would find its way into the Republic and into consumers shopping trolleys.
“We are all aware of the misleading labelling whereby many of the products are not in fact Irish. The UK is hoping to exert pressure on the EU to get a better deal that Teresa May will get through the commons in the coming weeks but it’s imperative that the EU will not allow any change to the agreed backstop which is our insurance policy against a hard border,” she said.
The IFA chair said that it was “disappointing” to read that members of the UK parliament saw as positive the speed at which the US wanted to do a trade deal with the UK and played scant regard to the high standards that UK farmers adhere to in animal welfare, environmental protection and food safety.
The uncertainty that continued to surround brexit was having a major negative impact on our beef industry where by 52% were into the UK market, she said.
“A no deal brexit would spell the end of the Irish agri-industry as we would be facing tariffs of €800m per annum, making our product unaffordable,” said Ms Walsh.
The IFA policy on Brexit was no hard border, no border in the Irish Sea and no scope for the UK to pursue a cheap food policy.
“As farmers we expect our Government and the EU to ensure that there is no sell out of Irish farmers,” she said.
The UK’s National Farmer Union has said that it was imperative that in any future trade deals, including any possible deal with the US did not allow the import of food produced to a lower standard than those required of UK farmers.