UPLAND farms in Somerset - and across the UK - will struggle to survive unless they are given 'special status' in future legislation, a county MP has warned.

Bridgwater and West Somerset MP Ian Liddell-Grainger says he is alarmed the Government appears intent on imposing a one-size-fits-all policy framework on the countryside.

He says unless ministers acknowledge that hill farmers will continue to require the high levels of support they have traditionally enjoyed, widespread business failures will inevitably result.

Mr Liddell-Grainger’s constituency embraces most of Exmoor, the Quantock Hills AONB and part of the Somerset Levels – all areas where various types of conservation schemes operate.

But, he said, the three zones had quite diverse characters and required specific levels of micro-management.

“And what worries me is that I have seen nothing in the Government’s proposals which acknowledges the fact that localised fine-tuning is going to be an essential element in future policies,” he said.

“Instead, there seems to be an arrogant assumption that farming is just farming and that farmers will have to fit into a common policy as best they can.

“I see reams and reams of text about farmers having to deliver environmental benefits, but nothing about how they are actually going to put food on their tables.”

Mr Liddell-Grainger said he was particularly concerned about upland farming in view of the fact that it had historically enjoyed higher levels of support to compensate for poor soils and harsh climates.

“The inescapable fact is that the more rugged and beautiful the landscape the more difficult and unrewarding it is to farm,” he said.

“We wouldn’t have the stunning landscapes in our national parks if we didn’t have farmers to care for them - and we wouldn’t have farmers to care for them if we didn’t support them generously – as we have for decades.

“Sadly, this fact appears to have escaped those who are drawing up our future policies – or perhaps they are deliberately ignoring it.

"Either way, a cynic might reasonably conclude that that the Government is preparing to allow hill farmers to fail in order to achieve the rewilding by stealth of the country’s uplands.

“Far more attention is being paid to the reintroduction of beavers than to the needs of farmers.

“Perhaps we should abandon the countryside and leave it to the beavers to manage totally, because at least their needs would be catered for.”

Defra has been contacted for comment.