A CONVOY of tractors, placards and passionate speeches helped farmers send a clear message to the Government about post-Brexit trade deals with America.

The rally in Northallerton, organised by Save British Farmers, saw tractors and farm vehicles descend on the high street, while supporters and speakers gathered on the Market Place.

The demonstration was against post-Brexit trade deals that could flood the UK market with cheap American food with lower standards than British produce.

Farmers are concerned that the proposed Agriculture Bill will open the door for deals in which importers could undercut British farmers and devastate the UK’s farming industry.

On Tuesday, the House of Lords voted on amendments to the Bill that would require imports to meet high animal welfare standards and it will go back before MPs in October.

The Northern Echo:

Graham Clarke, who farms sheep, beef and arable near Bedale, said: “We have got a heritage in this country of producing very good meat and food to high standards of welfare and environmental standards and that is one of the things that keeps the farmers going and helps protect the beautiful countryside we have around us.

“The Government has pledged to maintain standards (for imports) but they have not yet put it in the Agriculture Bill and they have a track record of U-turns so can we trust them not to go back on food standards?

He added: “I got described as a ‘militant farmer’ this week, I have never been militant about anything but I have become passionate about certain topics over the last three or four years and food standards is one of them.

“And we need a bit more of this public demonstrating in this country. Nail you colours to the mast, stand up for what you believe in.”

The Northern Echo:

Among the demonstrators was Shan Oakes of the Green Party who said there were many things to be concerned about with America’s agricultural practices.

She gave examples such as intensive ‘factory farms’ where cattle never see grass, the proliferation of genetically modified food and chlorinated chicken.

Ms Oakes said it ‘would be a huge step back’ to allow such products into the UK market, especially at prices that undercut higher quality British produce.

Christine Ward-Kaye, who travelled from York to attend the rally, said: “We are going to lose a lot if we lose the high standards we have fought for.”

Richard Sadler of Save British Farmers praised the ‘tremendous’ rally, adding: “I think it shows the strength of feeling. Farmers are getting angry because they are not being listened to.”

The Northern Echo:

Afterwards a letter was delivered by tractor to Richmondshire MP Rishi Sunak’s Northallerton office calling on him to support the food standards amendment.

It concluded: “This is about farmers’ long term livelihoods and we owe it to future generations to do all we can to protect them. If we’re going to to anything about this we need to do it now before it’s too late.”