European farmer protests place focus on British farming concerns

In the wake of mass farmer protests across Europe, there are growing calls from within the UK farming industry for British farmers to launch their own demonstrations.

Farmers across the UK have become increasingly frustrated and concerned about inequality within the supply chain, which currently sees many receiving unfair prices for their produce while retailers show record profits.

In addition, many farmers are bewildered by the lack of political support for the UK agricultural industry demonstrated by their governments.

See also: French farmers vow to put Paris ‘under siege’ in tractor protest

With margins already on a knife edge, British farmers are facing significantly reduced support payments under a shift to environmental policy, which they fear threatens their livelihoods and will trigger further instability to food security.

The NFU said protests must always be a last resort. But Farmers Weekly understands several farm groups are holding talks about possibly launching their own demonstrations soon to alert the public to the plight facing British farmers.

The demos could target retailers, MPs in their constituency offices or involve tractor processions.

Welshpool meeting

Welsh farmers were due to hold an open meeting at Welshpool Livestock Market on Thursday 1 February to discuss “how to make rural voices heard”, including a possible demonstration in Cardiff Bay.

Farmer’s son and media commentator James Melville this week launched No Farmers, No Food, a new campaign that aims to “save the farming industry” and pressure governments into actions that benefit farmers.

The campaign has already attracted more than 41,000 followers on X.

Mr Melville said he was working with a number of key farming industry influencers and farmers on this campaign, to gain widespread public support and get effective change from governments.

Steve Ridsdale, chairman of the British Farming Union, described the support for the No Farmers, No Food campaign as “staggering”.

He said: “We understand the frustrations of farmers and why so many have joined this new campaign; it shows there is a strength of feeling.

“But any protests must be peaceful and not be disruptive to the public.”

View from NFU

NFU president Minette Batters said British farmers have “great sympathy” with farming colleagues across Europe, who are facing uncertainty and huge challenges similar to their own.

But she said British farmers do not take for granted the incredibly high public support, as evidenced by more than a million people who signed the NFU’s petition to safeguard British food and farming standards in 2020, which led to greater government scrutiny over trade deals.

“This support is highly valued by our farmers and it can be highly influential, and because of it, protests will always be a last resort,” she added.

Neil Shand, chief executive of the National Beef Association, was also circumspect about the value of farmers protesting, saying protests “should be at the right place, at the right time, for the right argument”.

He questioned what an NFU Scotland rally against the Scottish government outside Holyrood just over a year ago had achieved.

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