US Trade deal will benefit UK farmers - My Article in Farmer's Weekly

The UK is a high-quality and competitive producer of agricultural and agri-food products. But we understand that farmers too are facing difficult challenges as a result of the coronavirus.

That is why as we negotiate the UK’s new trade agreements, including with the US, we will always make sure we are not only standing up for British farming, but actually using these talks to secure new opportunities for farmers.

Our analysis shows that agricultural sectors are set to gain from a US deal.

While an agreement will benefit all parts of the UK, we would expect Scotland and the Midlands to see the most positive impact on local businesses and exporters.

An agreement with the US could remove tariffs of up to 26% on British beef – a market only recently opened and worth £66m to UK farmers.

That said, we understand that beef farmers may feel anxious at the prospect of a US trade deal, given the size and strength of the US market.

We will therefore be extremely cautious to ensure any “opening up” does not cause an unwanted downturn for domestic producers. 

Lamb exports

A deal with the US could bring similar benefits for the lamb industry.

It is not widely known that the US is the second-largest importer of lamb in the world, and even a 3% market share could boost annual UK lamb exports by £18m. 

The UK now exports more dairy products than it imports – for the first time in recent history – and trade deals could create even more opportunities.

Today, the US continues to apply a 17% tariff on cheddar cheese exports, which could be removed if we succeed in reaching an ambitious trade agreement.

If a free-trade agreement (FTA) were to enable just a 10% increase in exports to the US, this would result in a £5m increase for our cheese processors, estimated to be worth more than £90,000 for the average cheese producer.

Cheaper production inputs

In addition to having the opportunity to sell more produce in the US, an FTA could also allow UK farmers to source better and cheaper inputs for production.

UK farmers could benefit from cheaper fertiliser, crop protection chemicals and feed.

For example, if the average farm saw a 0.5% reduction in costs a year, this could lead to them receiving £11,000 additional annual profit in 10 years’ time.

We will always ensure that UK FTAs are fair and reciprocal. British farmers will not face unbalanced competition.

We will continue to consult and engage with representative organisations, including the NFU and AHDB, in our trade negotiations.

As we leave the EU, we will maintain the same import standards. No UK import standards will be diminished as part of an FTA.

We will never undermine our high domestic environmental protection, animal welfare and food safety standards – ensuring that in any agreement British farmers are always able to compete. 

I am committed to negotiating the best possible deal for UK farmers and involving the industry in trade negotiations.

As our first round of talks concludes this Friday (15 May), we will move one step closer to lifting trade barriers with the US.

This is a huge opportunity for all farmers, wherever they are in the UK.