A NEW commission advising the Government on trade policies to secure new opportunities for UK farmers will be put on a statutory footing, it was confirmed this week, in a move hailed as a landmark moment for the country.

The remit of the Trade and Agriculture Commission (TAC), which represents UK farmers, retailers and consumers, is being extended past its previous fixed term.

The Government’s decision to give the commission a “more active role through a new legislative underpinning”, to be reviewed every three years, will give “farmers a stronger voice in UK trade policy”, the Department for International Trade (DIT) said.

The TAC was originally launched for six months in July, hearing from experts on farming, animal welfare, the environment and trade.

It will produce a report on the impact on animal welfare and agriculture of each free trade deal the Government signs after the end of the EU transition period on January 1, 2021, the DIT said.

This will be laid in Parliament before the start of the 21-day scrutiny period under the terms of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act.

A TAC report on trade policies to guard against undermining animal welfare, food production and environmental standards is due to be published in February next year.

NFU president Minette Batters said: “This significant commitment to primary legislation on food standards, both in the Agriculture Bill and Trade Bill, is exactly what we have been calling for," said Ms Batters. "It is a landmark moment for the people of the UK, for our countryside and the future of the food on our plates."

“This decision means everyone who cares about our trading relationships with the rest of the world – MPs, stakeholders and the public – will see independent expert advice from the Trade and Agriculture Commission on future trade deals before they are ratified.

“More than one million people signing our petition makes it one of the largest petitions this country has ever seen. Together with support from all farming organisations, animal welfare experts, environmental NGOs, politicians, some of the greatest chefs and celebrities in the country, including Jamie Oliver and Joe Wicks, and then backed by the Mail on Sunday’s campaign to save our family farms, has created an unprecedented coalition.

“This all led to my recent meeting the Prime Minster in the House of Commons, where it was clear to me how much he personally cares about this issue.

"I am delighted that he has led the Government to draw a line in the sand and commit to the 2019 Conservative manifesto commitment not to undermine our farmers in future trade deals by ensuring the Trade and Agriculture Commission can report to Parliament and MPs can give proper scrutiny to future trade deals.

“I look forward to working with the Government, building on our iconic British Brand reputation for high-quality, healthy, sustainable British food at home and abroad.”

Environment Secretary George Eustice said: “By putting the Trade and Agriculture Commission on a statutory footing, we are ensuring that the voices of our farmers, as well as those of consumers and key environmental and animal welfare groups, continue to be heard while we are in the process of scrutinising future trade deals.”

Skipton and Ripon Conservative MP Julian Smith said the move signalled the Government's clear commitment that all future trade agreements will uphold the country’s high animal welfare standards, providing a stronger platform for British farmers and growers to engage in UK trade policy.

MPs backed the Government amendment to the Agriculture Bill to increase parliamentary scrutiny of free trade agreements and for extra detail on how measures are consistent with maintaining UK standards, as well as putting TAC on a statutory footing, in a vote on Wednesday night.

However, the House of Commons voted 331 to 272, majority 59, to disagree with a House of Lords amendment to the Agriculture Bill, which sought to ensure imported foodstuffs met equivalent benchmarks to those followed by UK producers. This would have related to animal welfare, environmental protection and food safety.

The Bill will now return to the Lords for further scrutiny.