The Trade and Agriculture Commission (TAC) has been placed on a full statutory footing, giving farmers an even stronger voice in UK trade policy.
The changes mean that the commission will produce a report on the impact on animal welfare and agriculture of each free trade deal. The report will be laid in Parliament before MPs are given the final say on any new deals.
The TAC has representatives from across the agricultural industry. They include the National Farmers Union of Scotland, the Food and Drink Federation, and is chaired by the food safety expert, Tim Smith, who was previously Chief Executive of the Food Standards Agency.
There have been concerns raised about the possibility of chlorinated chicken and hormone injected beef being sold in the UK. However, the law remains that no such products can be sold.
Borders MP, John Lamont, has welcomed the further protection.
John Lamont MP said: “I will never vote for trade deals that threaten the ability of Borders farmers to sell their high-quality products, nor will I ever vote to undermine their high standards.
“To be clear, I will not vote to allow chlorinated chicken to be sold here in the UK.
“Nevertheless, I welcome that the Trade and Agriculture Commission will have beefed up powers and will produce an impact report on each free trade deal the government signs.
“It’s important that farmers are at the heart of our trade policy as we become a fully-fledged trading nation. These new statutory powers mean that farmers' voices will be heard front and centre.
“Trade deals can support jobs across the UK by boosting farming exports and supporting our manufacturers, whilst ensuring our NHS is protected and all of our high food standards remain in place.
President of the National Farmers Union of Scotland and member of the TAC, Andrew McCornick, said: “This is a huge step forward. There has been overwhelming public backing, celebrity endorsement and growing cross-party support for measures to be written in to legislation that recognise the outstanding standards met by the nation’s farmers and crofters and that ensure any imports coming into the UK would meet the standards that are required of UK producers.
“That has been matched by a relentless lobbying effort seeking significantly greater governance and scrutiny of the nation’s trade negotiations as we enter a new era.
“As a member of TAC, I viewed putting the commission on a statutory footing and strengthening its Terms of Reference as critical.
“This is a landmark decision. We will study the detail of the proposals and strive to ensure that the best interests of farming, food and drink and the public continue to be front and centre of any future trade deals.”