South Scotland MSP Emma Harper is hosting a virtual roundtable discussion, taking place on Monday the 17 August, to hear from experts and discuss why standards of food, animal health, welfare and the environment matter.

This is a highly important subject as the UK looks to create trade agreements with other nations – including the USA – once the EU transition period ends on 31 December 2020.

Various key stakeholders including from the National Farmers Union Scotland (NFUS), Quality Meat Scotland (QMS), The National Sheep Association (NSA), and other policy experts, journalists and those working in agriculture have been invited to attend the discussion. The South Scotland MSP has also invited her fellow Councillor, MP and MSP colleagues to attend the online discussion.

Key speakers at the event will be Joe Stanley, an East Midlands beef and arable farmer, conservationist, columnist and advocate for sustainability for food, farming the environment and local Newton Stewart Dairy Farmer Colin Ferguson, who is also Dumfries and Galloway Regional Chair of the Scottish National Farmers’ Union. Colin has a particular interest in the environment, air quality and sustainable farming. Colin is also Chair of the National Farmers Union Scotland’s Next Generation Committee.

Both speakers will deliver a presentation which will be followed by a question & answer session as to why standards of food production and processing, animal health, welfare, and environment matter.

Commenting, Ms Harper said:

“Since the June 2016 narrowly won vote – which meant that the UK would be leaving the European Union – many of us have continuously heard about chlorinated chicken and hormone injected beef coming to our shops and supermarkets when the new trade deals are negotiated. The UK will be negotiating on Scotland’s behalf as trade is a power reserved to Westminster.

“In my work as an MSP who represents a rural farming region, and as a member of the Rural Committee in Parliament, I have raised these issues on many occasions along with the need to promote and protect the fantastic produce, including the PGI brands, that we have in Scotland.

“I look forward to hosting this discussion, and hearing from Joe and Colin about why food and animal welfare standards matter, especially since other countries – including the USA – produce food with poorer animal welfare standards which include higher use of antibiotics and hormone treatments and wider use of already banned pesticides.

I am extremely interested to hear the thoughts, concerns and potential opportunities from the speakers and I want to raise wider awareness on how important standards are.

“I have asked that all who wish to attend the discussion email me by the end of the day on Friday the 14 August, to ensure they receive a link to the discussion which will take place using the BlueJeans meeting platform. If anyone has any questions, please get in touch at any time.”

Colin Ferguson, Regional Chair of the National Farmers’ Union Scotland, said;

“As we emerge from the pandemic, and prepare for Brexit, we must ensure that the positive lessons on food security and standards are preserved. As food producers, we take great pride in what we produce. We meet some of the highest production and welfare standards in the world and provide assurances through independent audits that guarantee the delivery of quality Scottish food and drink. Not only ensuring the food is as safe as it can be, but ensuring the methods used to produce our food is as environmentally & climate friendly too. We also know that the public want our outstanding standards of food production to be the cornerstone of any future trade deals done by the UK Government. A recent petition from all UK farming unions secured more than one million signatures backing the need for our production standards to be protected now and in the future.”

Joe Stanley, East Midlands Farmer and Conservationist said;

‘As a British farmer I’m proud to produce food to some of the highest welfare, environmental and safety standards in the world. Our exit from the EU presents us with opportunities, but also myriad of challenges. Foremost amongst these is the risk that our high domestic food standards will be undercut in hastily-concluded trade deals with global agri-food giants like the United States, who have a very different approach to food production standards, farming in ways it would be illegal to do so here. British citizens deserve the farm to fork quality and traceability they have come to expect as members of the EU, rather than a Brexit dividend of the cheapest dregs of the global food system.’

At First Minister’s Questions today (Wednesday 12 August) Ms Harper highlighted the growth of Scotland as a world-leading food and drink producer being down to its reputation and questioned the impact of a US trade deal on Scottish agricultural businesses and wider communities.

The UK will be making trade agreements including one with the USA once the exit transition from the European Union ends on December 31 2020.

Emma Harper MSP: Emma is a Member of the Scottish Parliament for the South Scotland Region. She is a member of the Parliament’s Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee (RECC) and Deputy Convener of Health and Sport Committee. Emma has interest in promoting optimal food safety, welfare and environment standards.

Joe Stanley: Joe is an East Midlands arable and beef farmer, conservationist, columnist, advocate for sustainability for food, farming the environment.

Colin Ferguson: Colin is a South West Scotland Dairy Farmer, Dumfries and Galloway Scottish National Farmers Union Regional Chair and member of NFUS Next Generation Committee. He has a particular interest in environment, air quality and sustainable farming.