The National Sheep Association (NSA)has moved to remind the government of sheep farmers' needs after the country left the European Union (EU) last week.

Farmers across all associations and unions have been on tenterhooks regarding the future of the industry once a deal has, or has not, been agreed with the EU.

With the vital Agriculture Bill still being debated in Parliament, the NSA's chief executive, Phil Stocker, has urged the government to remember them.

“As we take this step as a country, it’s absolutely vital care is taken to protect agriculture in the UK and recognise it for the vibrant and vital industry it is," he said.

"The UK grows some of the highest quality food in the world, something our farmers are extremely proud to produce.

"Our sheep farmers have an excellent record for delivering healthy nutritious delicious food raised using environmentally sustainable methods.”

NSA recognises the vast potential for the UK produce in new trade deals but is calling for assurances that the industry will not be put under pressure to compete domestically with lower standard produce.

Mr Stocker added: “Sacrificing the high-quality British standards to allow lower-quality produce into the UK is absolutely unacceptable.

"Forcing British farmers to compete with food produced cheaply at a lower standard and quality will undermine UK agriculture.

"[It will] and leave our farmers in an untenable position as consumers who aren’t familiar with why there is price disparity between imported produce and British produce may be drawn in by the cheaper price tags.”

Mr Stocker acknowledged the challenges ahead with Prime Minister Boris Johnson refusing to extend the transition beyond 12 months.

"This leaves the very real challenge of negotiating our future relationship with the EU in just 11 months," he said.

"However, it is necessary a trade deal with the EU, or other equally sized markets, are in place by the end of the year, so the sheep sector is not again facing the significant tariffs attached to trading on WTO rules.”

He also added that the NSA are 'cautiously optimistic' with government proposals for future farm support.

“In England, there is a real potential for the new ELM schemes, and NSA is pleased to see more recognition of food security in the most recent draft of the Agriculture Bill," he said.

"We have welcomed the news of ring-fenced funding, but the direction for this funding has to come soon.”