FARMERS were out in force to lobby the Government days ahead of a crucial Bill going before Parliament.

MPs are set to debate the Agriculture Bill on Monday after the House of Lords recommended amendments to ensure imported produce is of the same standard expected of British farmers.

Many in the industry are concerned that the Bill could open the door for trade deals with the US that would undercut British farmers and flood the market with poorer quality, cheap food.

Save British Farming organised a second protest against the Bill in Stokesley on Friday morning, following a similar demonstration held in Northallerton a fortnight ago.

The Northern Echo:

A convoy of around 20 tractors and farm vehicles with banners gathered near Stokesley town centre before driving in convoy up the High Street.

On the same day mini protests were staged outside the constituency offices of local MPs around the county.

Letters are being hand delivered to all six of North Yorkshire’s Conservative MPs as back in May all of them failed to back the amendment to the Agriculture Bill.

Julian Sturdy, Conservative MP for Outer York, has confirmed today plans to join Tory rebels by supporting the amendment.

The Northern Echo:

One of the local farmers joining the Stokesley protest, Matthew Nichols, said it was important that everyone understood the threat to farming and food standards.

“The UK has some of the best animal welfare and food quality standards in the world and there are a lot of regulations we have to comply with. That’s not always easy but we’re respected for that.

“You can’t lead and preach to others if you just allow in any food products from abroad – that would undermine everything we’re doing.”

He added: “Some people will always try to buy the food that’s produced here but if these imports are allowed there are certain sectors of the market where people will end up eating imported food without even realising it.

“A lot of farmers are already in difficulty financially and with the weather, reductions in payments - and now this - many could be driven to bankruptcy.”

Graham Clarke, who farms near Bedale, said: “In this country farmers are trying their best to reduce the amount of antibiotics and they are only used when they need to be.

“But when you go across to America every animal gets fed antibiotics and hormones as growth promoters - and if we allow in meat produced in this way it will reduce the effectiveness of antibiotics we need for treating diseases (in humans) like MRSA and TB.”

He added: “Farmers all over the UK are getting angry about the Government’s plans.

"The idea of undercutting our farmers with dodgy cheap meat from US factory farms is also hugely unpopular with the British public, with more than a million people signing the NFU’s petition to maintain minimum food standards.”

The Northern Echo:

Richard Sadler of Save British Farming hailed the demonstration as a huge success.

He said: "As they drove up and down the High Street sounding their horns, people on the street pavement into spontaneous applause - and clapped and cheered.

"It's very obvious that farmers have very strrong support from the public - everyone values farming in Yorkshire and no one wants these cheap, nasty imports from US factory farms.

"Now the ball is in the court of Rishi Sunak and other MPs in farming areas.

"We will be watching them when the Agriculture Bill comes back to the Commons next week - and we're saying to them: 'do the right thing and vote to stop these imports for the sake of our farmers, the countryside - and for everyone who cares about animal welfare, the environment and where their food comes from."