AGRICULTURE experts have called for the Government to get a better deal for farmers in post-Brexit Britain.

The UK Agriculture Bill is currently at the Reports stage in Parliament, and the sustainable food project IKnowFood , which came from the N8 Agrifood Resilience Programme at the University of York, said the Bill needs to give more thought to the implications of farming methods on the UK’s food industry and public health.

The N8 AgriFood Resilience Programme is a research partnership which combines the expertise of the eight most research-intensive universities in the North of England, working to tackle issues surrounding global food security.

Professor Bob Doherty from the University of York is Principal Investigator for IKnowFood, and was invited to sit on a roundtable group in Westminster and help draft amendments to the Bill.

Prof Doherty said the development of a new post-Brexit UK agriculture policy would be a seminal moment for the future of the country's food system, but the Bill said more about land management and agriculture than food, and raised concerns over a lack of "a strong and explicit commitment" that sustainable agriculture and food would not be undercut by the need to secure trade agreements outside the EU.

He said: "There is nothing in the bill, for instance, to address our chronic dependence on foreign imports - principally from the EU - for our fruit and vegetables. This is surprising considering the UK’s unenviable reputation as the home to among the most unhealthy and overweight populations in the EU.

"Indeed, it appears the Agricultural Bill has been drafted without proper consultation or alignment with the Department of Health and Social Care, given the potential for enshrining diet and nutrition targets into the UK post- CAP food regime. A similar gap exists between DEFRA and the Department for International Trade. Here it is noticeable that while Michael Gove speaks in terms of sustainable farming and animal welfare, the Trade Secretary, Liam Fox is highly critical of the EU’s ‘precautionary’ principle and over-regulated agrifood sector."

Professor Tony Herron, also of the University of York, has also called on the Government to work more closely with the Department of Health and Social Care and the Department of International Trade to ensure the Bill could be 'Brexit-proof', "given the UK's dependence on the EU both as a source of food and migrant labour".

He said: "The EU single market and Customs Union is crucial to the food and drinks industry – the UK’s largest remaining manufacturing sector and bigger than the car and aerospace industries combined.

"It is very noticeable that the countries that the UK government has singled out as future traders, including the United States, Canada and Australia, are all highly competitive agriculture exporters. This raises the prospect the UK’s need to secure free trade deals with these countries will undermine its commitment to sustainable farming and a thriving domestic food sector."