Dairy cows eating silage© Tim Scrivener

Defra secretary Michael Gove has earmarked £14m to support innovation in the dairy industry.

The UK dairy industry turns over £27.8bn/year and supports 70,000 jobs, but there are fears Brexit negotiations could damage the sector and its potential in the future. 

Speaking at the World Dairy Summit in Belfast on Monday (30 October), Mr Gove sought to reassure dairy farmers that the government is committed to supporting the sector.

See also: Three Brexit scenarios could be positive for UK dairy industry

“I can announce the government has opened a £14m fund for the dairy sector to support innovation and enhance the welfare standards in the industry,” Mr Gove told delegates.

The funding for the dairy industry will come from Defra’s Countryside Productivity Scheme, which is part of the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE). The scheme is also open to farmers in other sectors.

The second phase of the large grants scheme for investment in cutting-edge technology and equipment, is worth £40m, of which £14m will be made available for the dairy industry.

Profitable dairy industry

Mr Gove said the key to a profitable dairy industry “will be to ensure we have the correct levels of investment into innovation to ensure our farmers can be as efficient as they can be in the future”.

During the negotiations on Brexit, Mr Gove stressed the UK government wanted to ensure supply lines were solid, no barriers to trade were erected and labour could be accessed where needed.

But EU farm commissioner Phil Hogan warned the issue of free movement of people after Brexit was “a difficult issue for the UK and for the EU for different reasons, and will require negotiations”.

Mr Hogan said dairy farmers need to innovate, co-operate and follow market signals if they wanted to succeed with profitable businesses.

EU agri-exports continue to grow, he added, despite the sector still adjusting to the post-quota environment. He said there is a need for an ongoing commitment to sustainability “from farm to fork”.

‘Strong story’

The theme of the summit – “Make a Difference with Dairy” – focused on dairy production in countries around the world as well as looking at consumer trends and subsequent markets.

Judith Bryans, president of the International Dairy Federation, which set up the event with the help of the local organising committee, the Dairy Council for Northern Ireland, said the global dairy community is one billion people strong and is feeding six billion consumers.

“We believe in dairy. We have a strong story to tell in terms of nutrition and also the progress we are making environmentally,” said Dr Bryans.

“No sector is perfect and there is always room for improvement but we have a vision, we have our goals and we will spare no effort in achieving them.”