No Farmers, No Food founder tackles concerns about campaign

The founder of No Farmers, No Food has rejected claims it has any hidden political agenda, insisting that it seeks to create a “unified and non-partisan” campaign for British farmers.

James Melville says he created the group “in good faith” to work in the best interests of British farmers to highlight their concerns and achieve better outcomes from policymakers and governments.

“No Farmers, No Food is purely about farming concerns and to try to get to a situation whereby British farmers’ best interests are being served with a bit more political will,” he told Farmers Weekly.

See also: Angry Welsh farmers stage go-slow tractor protest

Mr Melville describes himself as a media commentator and pundit who lives in Cornwall.

He also sits on the board of Together, which has run campaigns against the Covid lockdown and the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in London.

Although he does not farm now, Mr Melville says he grew up on a family farm in Fife, Scotland, and lived there until he left university.

“There are the usual concerns from some people that we have an axe to grind, but they are totally wrong,” he said.

“We do not have any nefarious political ties or agendas. We are completely non-partisan. We want to be inclusive, and consultative to build a broad consensus of agreement that reflects the concerns and the need for changes within the farming industry.”

Climate change stance

Mr Melville also rejected accusations on social media platform X (formerly Twitter) that the group will push an anti-climate change agenda.

“There is one debate about the science behind climate change and another about the political policies that will affect farmers,” he said.

“If net-zero policies are implemented, what effect will these have on farmers? Are governments putting in the right policies that affect our farmers?

“It does not mean they [farmers] are climate change deniers, it just means that they are concerned about their livelihoods.”

Mr Melville set up the group after watching the coverage of farmers protesting across central Europe over the past few months, and speaking out about anti-farming policies and unfairness in the supply chain. 

He says he is not surprised that farmer protests have spread from the Netherlands, Germany and France and now into parts of the UK, given the enormous challenges farmers are facing.

These include reams of red tape, overbearing environmental rules, and low prices compounded by the threat of cheap imports.

Although some farmers have displayed yellow “No Farmer, No Food” placards on their tractors in recent protests in the UK, Mr Melville insists the group is not behind any of the protests and has no plans to organise any in the future.

“We are not organising any direct protest actions,” he said.

Mission statement

This week, No Farmers, No Food laid out its mission statement, which includes a range of topics, including legislation, unfair pricing, government subsidies and farmers’ wellbeing.

Mr Melville says the statement was drafted by two to three people, including himself following input from farmers on phone calls, online meetings and suggestions received on its internal WhatsApp group.

The No Farmers, No Food group has attracted almost 60,000 followers on X (formerly Twitter) since it was set up less than a month ago.

It has now launched accounts on Instagram and Facebook.

Mr Melville says work is under way to launch a website in the next two to three weeks, but the campaign is not receiving any financial backing and no one involved is being paid, including himself.

“We are all contributing to this campaign in our spare time, alongside our jobs,” he said.

No Farmers, No Food has attracted support from a number of high-profile farmers, including Gareth Wyn Jones, Andrew Ward, Olly Harrison and Anna Longthorp.

Alternative view

However, the group has not been universally endorsed by all farmers and other farming groups.

Liz Webster, founder of the Save British Farming group and a former prospective parliamentary candidate for the Liberal Democrats, said she welcomed all campaigns that highlight the many difficulties affecting British farming.

But she added: “We must be cautious about who and what is to blame for the many problems that we are trying to survive through.

“My concern with this particular campaign is that they seem to want to focus energy on net zero and blaming Labour for net zero. Firstly, Labour have not been in power in Westminster for 14 years.

“The reason we have net-zero policy is because of the Conservative government’s decision to do a hard Brexit, which produced a new Agriculture Act that turned farmers into park-keepers with no focus on food production.

“It would be very damaging for the industry to be linked to climate sceptics and be too involved in political mud-slinging, and we must work with whatever the electorate chooses going forward in this electoral year, which looks likely to be Labour.”

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