New campaign group No Farmers, No Food is already attracting significant support, as farmers across the UK mull following their European colleagues with protest action.
The group was established on Twitter/X a fortnight ago as a wave of protests spread across the continent over onerous environmental regulations, rising costs, competition from imports and a lack of support from supermarkets.
Farmers across the UK now appear to be eyeing similar action. The new campaign has already attracted more than 50,000 followers on the social media platform and more than 300,000 on Facebook, with countless more farmers and food industry bodies engaging with the movement behind the scenes, said founder James Melville.
No Farmers, No Food is pitching itself as a non-political, non-militant campaign group that seeks to “support farmers and build public opinion and support” around the type of concerns expressed by continental farmers, said Melville – who is the son of a farmer, a media commentator and communications specialist.
“What we’re trying to do is create a set of campaigns and messages the public can understand, based on what is sometimes a very, very, complicated set of issues that are differing from farm to farm,” he added, pointing to government bureaucracy and the treatment of farmers by supermarkets as key areas that needed to be addressed.
But he stressed organising protests “was not our job as a very new organisation”.
“It’s up to individual communities and farmers to decide what they want to do,” he added.
The formation of the group comes amid growing calls for organised farmer protests in the UK. Farmers in Wales are understood to be particularly open to protest action.
“Please support No Farmers, No Food. We could be sleepwalking into food shortages. Hopefully with your support and your backing, we can make sure that we work the land to produce food that’s affordable and healthy.”— No Farmers, No Food (@NoFarmsNoFoods) February 7, 2024
~ @1GarethWynJones #NoFarmersNoFood pic.twitter.com/UeC7omyTOY
More than 1,000 farmers met at Welshpool livestock market last week to discuss the impact of proposed new Welsh government sustainable farming rules, which NFU Cymru warned could devastate the nation’s farming sector.
Plans by the Labour administration could lead to a 10.8% cut in livestock numbers and an 11% cut in labour on Welsh farms, equivalent to losing 5,500 jobs – costing the sector almost £200m. However, the Welsh government stresses the plans are subject to a consultation and could still change.
Farmers at the event expressed dismay at the plans, said north Wales-based livestock farmer Gareth Wyn Jones, who is also among the supporters of No Farmers, No Food. Further meetings were expected in Wales this week.
“There are definitely whispers around protest action and an appetite for it. But we’re not quite there yet,” Jones told The Grocer.
“This is a movement of frustration, with many farmers feeling like enough is enough – the situation many are finding themselves in is unsustainable.”
Some farmers were “raring to go” on protests, he said.
However, Jones – who has also highlighted the plight of farmers on his YouTube channel – stressed the “need to keep the public on board” and for any potential action to be co-ordinated, respectful and peaceful.
“There is no point in fragmented protest,” he added. “But if we do see protests it demonstrates we are at rock bottom.”