NSA seeks answers over Agricultural Bill’s sheepmeat omission

The National Sheep Association (NSA) has raised concerns over the lack of reference to ‘sheepmeat’ within Schedule One of the Agriculture Bill.

Schedule One lists produce for which importers and farmers must meet set standards in their marketing.

Beef, veal, poultry meat, milk, fat spreads, hops, fruit and vegetables, live plants, eggs, wine and bananas are among the products which are specifically listed.

Pigmeat was also not included on the list.

Some in the industry fear sheepmeat has been purposely excluded for the sake of imports to allow sheepmeat produced to lower standards to be imported into the country.

NSA chief executive Phil Stocker said: “The NSA is extremely concerned that ‘sheepmeat’ is missing within this schedule when most other agricultural products are included.

We are concerned that it could result in other countries able to import sheepmeat to the UK produced to lower environmental and welfare standards than UK sheep farmers are currently working to.

“This would be unacceptable, and we are appealing to Defra and Parliamentarians to fix this.”

NSA has contacted a number of MPs and Lords, and had written to George Eustice MP, before his resignation as Farming Minister, to request an explanation as to why sheepmeat has been missed from this schedule.

This connects with NSA’s three crucial themes with regards to Agriculture Bill amendments.

Stocker added: “NSA has assessed all proposed amendments to the Agriculture Bill, with three key focuses:

  • Ensuring standards for imported food reach equivalent standards to UK food production;
  • Ensuring funding commitments to agriculture and as far as possible to active farmers; and
  • Keeping food production at the heart of the Bill.

“The Agriculture Bill could provide a real opportunity to develop and strengthen UK sheep farming, but it is essential MPs understand and respect the needs of the industry, and by supporting these values they can help to do that.”

A spokesman for the NSA added that the association will continue to work on the Agriculture Bill as it continues through the House of Commons and into the Lords.