The first of 19 dairy farmers accused of using an unlicensed labour provider to employ migrant workers will go on trial next week.

All defendants – who include some of the biggest names in dairy farming – are accused of using the services of Wiltshire-based employment agency Marden Management to source workers for their farms.

The case is being brought by DEFRA following a lengthy investigation by the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA). Defendants, including NFU vice-president Gwyn Jones and Wills Bros of Cornwall, have pleaded not guilty.

Marden supplied British and overseas agricultural employees, including a number of Filipino migrant workers, to UK dairy farms. It is a criminal offence to employ the services of an unlicensed labour provider.

Oxfordshire farmer Brian Barnett was selected as a test case because his name is first on the alphabetical list of defendants. It is hoped the hearing at Swindon Magistrates’ Court will help clarify legal matters relating to all those charged.