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Opening the flood gates to a tide of cheap food

On Monday MP's failed to back calls for an amendment to the Agriculture Bill that would enshrine food safety and animal welfare practices in British law, despite a recent YouGov poll that found nine out of 10 people want to protect British standards on food and animal welfare in trade deals.

Like most of us, I wasn't in the House of Commons on Monday to see just which MP's failed to stand up for great British food and farming. Instead, I was at home watching the Channel 4 television programme Dispatches, which investigated the 'Dirty Secrets of American Food', a repulsive insight into factory farming and food contaminated with faeces and laced with antibiotic residues.

A number of backbench Tory MP's did rebel to vote for amendments to the Bill that would have provided the protection that farmers, consumers, farm animals and our planet so badly need, to guard against the importation of cheap food that is produced using methods that would be illegal here. But, sadly those who consider a trade deal with the USA more important than the health and wellbeing of British citizens, outnumbered them.

This opening of the flood gates to imported food of unknown, and even unsafe, provenance has far reaching consequences for our domestic farming and food production too. Faced with stiff competition from farmers overseas, it is inevitable that producers here will seek to adopt similar methods of production in an attempt to cut costs and stay in business. In effect, being dragged into a race to the bottom on price and standards.

Now is the time to start planning for what we, the people of this country, want from our food system. We may have been denied the right to high quality, safe food from the kind of farms we want to see farm animals raised on, but we still have a chance to vote every time we buy food.

Despite the rise in intensive factory farms here in the UK, there is a growing band of farmers who want to do things differently and who are focusing on adding value to what they produce. Produce & Provide is here to champion and support these innovators and artisans, who are now selling great tasting food direct from their farms and adopting traditional farming methods that safeguard the environment and give their animals the life they deserve. We want to give more people the chance to enjoy this wonderful food and to support their local farmers.

I understand that, for some, household budgets are tight and such wonderful food might appear to be out of reach. But according to figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), just 10.6% of household budgets was spent on food and non-alcoholic beverages, between April 2018 and March 2019. I believe that by forging a closer connection between farmers and consumers, Produce & Provide can help people to understand the true value of the food they buy.

It is that switch from buying food based on price to making choices based on a better understanding of the value of the food we buy that is key to developing a better food system and making healthy, nutritious food available to all. I am not just referring to a better understanding of how the food we eat impacts on our own health and well-being: it's about saving our planet, safeguarding animal welfare and securing a plentiful supply of great tasting food from British farms.

I hope that Produce & Provide will encourage people to embark on a voyage of discovery that will change their lives for the better. As the third President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson, once said "Agriculture is our wisest pursuit, because it will in the end contribute most to real wealth, good morals, and happiness". We can all share in this happiness, producers and consumers alike, if we work together to promote food sold direct from farms.

We are urging more producers who are providing great tasting food direct to local communities, to join us and ensure that there is a real alternative to factory farmed meat and dairy products when the post-Brexit trade deals are finally signed. Together, we can deliver what the ethical consumers and food lovers of Britain really want and beat the food industry giants that are destroying British farming.

For a limited period, producers can register on the website for just £9.99. Just click here to go to the registration page.

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