A SOMERSET MP is warning that 'unrest' could spread through the farming community if the government does not start to take notice of their views. 

Ian Liddell-Grainger, MP for Bridgwater and West Somerset, has expressed his concerns after the recent protests in Kent and Wales. 

In Kent, farmers jammed roads with their tractors in protest at the contracts the government has signed to bring in cheap meat imports. 

The Welsh protests were aimed at the Welsh government's new sustainable farming scheme which will require 10 per cent of land to be planted with trees and 10 per cent to become wildlife habitat. Farmers say the measures will have huge impacts on their already low incomes and lead to thousands of job losses. 

“I come from a farming family and I have every sympathy with the protestors because I understand completely why they are angry,” he said.

“Farmers have the ability to stand back and take a far wider, common-sense view of the world than politicians who are being driven by narrow agendas.

“They can see clearly that in an increasingly volatile world where, apart from international conflict, we face the unknowable consequences of climate change it is utter folly to increase our reliance on imports.

“It is disingenuous for ministers to claim that taking land out of production is better for the environment when that merely increases our dependence on food which has been produced under environmentally-unsustainable regimes and then travelled unsustainably for thousands of miles to get here.

“And ‘carbon offsetting’ by planting more trees is a total con because it is merely a licence to allow major corporations to carry on polluting.”

A government spokesperson said they 'firmly back our farmers'. 

"British farming is at the heart of British trade, and we put agriculture at the forefront of any deals we negotiate, prioritising new export opportunities, protecting UK food standards and removing market access barriers," they added.

“We’ve maintained the £2.4 billion annual farming budget which supports farmers to produce food profitably and sustainably and are also looking at ways to further improve fairness in the supply chain and support British farmers and growers, as well as ensuring customers have access to high-quality fresh British products.”

Mr Liddell-Grainger said the government should pay attention to the early signs of unrest in the farming community, and start helping to improve the financial health of the rural economy. 

“We are already seeing pig and poultry producers getting out because cheap imports are forcing down prices and making profitable farming impossible,” he added.

“I seriously wonder how much more structural damage the government is prepared to accept before it is forced to concede that its current policies are driving a world-leading industry into penury.

“Personally I applaud farmers who are prepared to get out and protest and who have concluded that the NFU is never going to instigate any such action because it is frightened of rocking the boat.”

NFU president, Minette Batters, has said the UK shares the concern of the farming community across Europe. 

"Two years of unsustainably high production costs are putting farming families under mounting pressure," she added. 

"At the same time, recent flooding has devastated farmland meaning that thousands of pounds have simply been washed away as crops are destroyed.

“But in Britain we also have incredibly high public support for our farmers and growers and we’ve shown that when the public and farming sector come together, we can bring about important change.

“We do not take this support for granted. In 2020, more than million people signed the NFU’s petition to safeguard British food and farming standards which led to greater government scrutiny over trade deals, and in 2023 nearly 50,000 signatures led to the Prime Minister hosting a Food Security Summit.

"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.”