Andrew Little, a farmer from Tempo, is concerned that if the Agriculture Bill is passed without the amendment to secure the implementation of UK food standards on imports, which could result in lower quality yet cheaper produce being brought into the country, local farmers will not be able to compete with the price.

“The concern would be that they are starting to import cheap food and we can’t compete with it and our processors are going to have to pull the price down to sell to the supermarkets and in turn our farm gate price will drop as well,” Andrew explained.

He added: “To me there should be a quota on imported food. We can only produce 80 per cent of the meat to keep our country living so really they should only be importing 20 per cent to make up the surplus whereas the big fear is that they are going to import a whole go of cheap meat and that the demand for local meat won’t be there so the next thing then it will drive the price of our produce down,” Andrew told The Impartial Reporter.

Andrew explained that in the UK farmers have to produce their food to a very high standard: “There are different rules and regulations with the Department, Food Standards Agency and the Red Tractor. We have a lot of records to keep, every injection we put into an animal to keep them from being sick, we have to write that down. All our meal that comes in, our concentrates, all that has to be recorded. For other countries, that doesn’t have to be.”

Noting that in America farmers can use growth hormones, Andrew said: “They can inject their cattle with growth hormones to make them grow quicker and produce a leaner meat but that’s banned over here, we’re not allowed to do that and we wouldn’t want to do it anyway. So they can produce cheaper meat, quicker.”

He added: “Also the likes of America and those countries, they have first cost price of their concentrates. They grow the soya hulls, I think and they grow all the cereals and stuff at first cost whereas we have to import most of our cereals that are made into the meal, that blends into the nuts that we feed to the cattle. We have to import all that into this country.”

Commenting that local farmers “cannot compete on the scale of what other countries can do”, Andrew said: “They can produce mass, they’ve cheaper imports and they have lower welfare standards so we just physically can’t compete because of the expense it actually takes for us to produce it.

“Plus our climate doesn’t really allow us to keep cattle out all year round whereas other countries can.”

“To me there is a market for both but it needs to be a controlled market. That’s my view on it. If we need extra meat, we’re going to have to import it anyway. We’d like to see it, as farmers, imported at the same standard so that it can be competed at the same price. Whereas if you let in sub-standard food, it’s cheaper and will drive our price down,” Andrew said, before concluding. “We don’t want sub-standard food coming in to our country and competing with high standard food that we produce.”