LOCAL MP Richard Foord wants new Government powers to shield farmers from supermarket exploitation.

Mr Foord, who represents communities in the Culm Valley stretching from Hemyock to Holcombe Rogus, wants stronger backing for the Groceries Code Adjudicator.

The adjudicator oversees interactions between farmers and retailers, with a focus on ensuring fair play.

However, it currently lacks the power to properly investigate incidents where supermarkets take advantage of small family-run farms and producers.

Speaking in Parliament, Mr Foord showcased the importance to rural communities of farmers and how vulnerable were many of them due to uncertain financial conditions putting the future of traditional market towns at risk.

Liberal Democrat Mr Foord criticised a lack of Government support for British farmers with its push for new trade deals undermining food and animal welfare standards and a ‘botched’ phasing out of the Basic Payment, which saw many farms lose a substantial amount of income.

He also highlighted how the ‘big six’ supermarkets made bumper profits last year while a survey by Riverford Organic Farmers found 49 per cent of farmers feared going out of business next year, with 75 per cent citing ‘supermarket pressure’ as their main pressure.

Mr Foord recently helped secure a ‘Buy British’ section in Morrisons supermarkets to promote local produce and has been pushing Ministers to ‘properly empower’ the adjudicator to ensure farmers received a fair deal.

He said: “Here in our beautiful part of Devon, our farmers are the beating heart of our communities. 

“Not only do they grow the food for our tables, they can also play a huge role in tending the countryside and protecting our natural environment.

“They are key allies in our fight to reduce carbon emissions and tackle persistent flooding.

“That is why it is so disappointing to see this Conservative Government continue to let down our farmers.

“They have completely bungled the transition away from the Basic Payment and signed new trade deals that allow lower-quality meat from abroad to undercut our home-grown produce.

“At present, farmers have little protection against the big supermarkets.

“The big six supermarkets seem more focused on paying rock-bottom prices to pad out their profits, instead of ensuring farmers get a fair share.

“This has to change.

“The so-called Groceries Code Adjudicator needs to be properly empowered so it can ensure farmers get a fair price for their goods, but also that they are not left waiting months for payment.

“With more than 1,500 people across Mid and East Devon backing the petition, it is vital that the Government takes action - and does so swiftly.”