1 June 2020
What price will West Sussex farmers pay as this government embarks on trade negotiations with the USA and other countries? Greens from the Arundel area are astonished and worried at the extraordinary contradictions displayed in a recent Commons vote by local MP Andrew Griffith.
In a blow to farmers and consumers interests, the Arundel & South Downs MP, along with the majority of his Conservative colleagues, voted recently against Amendments to the Agriculture Bill. The amendments would have protected farmers and food producers from international goods with lower animal welfare and environmental standards and were backed by a coalition of opposition parties, conservation groups and notably, the National Farmers Union.
This betrayal is in addition to other post Brexit promises on food safety and environment being removed from the same Bill. Even the Environment Secretary, George Eustace voted against his own 2019 welfare and hygiene proposals!
The Covid 19 crisis has shown us vital lessons - from the fragility of international food supply chains in the face of challenges like pandemics to the fact that low farm animal welfare conditions are a hotbed for the mutation of animal viruses into humans.
The Green Party made sound proposals to help lessen these risks – e.g. fostering alternative food growing systems such as agrofrestry and supporting local food production. These too were soundly rejected by the Conservative- dominated Parliament.
What price may be paid for these desperate decisions? If our farmers have to compete with cheap imports they may end up increasing the levels of drugs they give cattle and chickens, reducing the numbers of animals living a relatively free -range life, using more chemicals and reducing space given over for wildlife enhancement. They could even be forced out of business. In another irony, Andrew Griffith expressed concern at hustings about mental health being a big social problem to be tackled. Farmers are one of the professions most vulnerable to mental illness and suicide, and this can only get worse if protections aren’t maintained.
Isabel Thurston, Green councillor at Arun District Councillor and the Green Party's parliamentary candidate for Arundel and South Downs in the 2019 General Election said, "I am incredibly disappointed that Andrew Griffith has let his constituents down in this way. I attended an NFU hustings in Pulborough with Andrew and the other candidates, where we were grilled rigorously by local farmers on how we would support them if elected. I'm afraid that if those farmers voted for Andrew Griffith, they will now realise that they were deceived. Our MP has no intention of standing up for farmers in this constituency, many of whom will find farming much more challenging in the years ahead.'