15 October 1999

Ballot is set for a Yes to generic milk advertising

By Johann Tasker

DAIRY farmers are set to vote in favour of a national milk advertising campaign, according to a farmers weekly survey.

But the government could still overrule the campaign unless ministers are convinced that enough farmers have returned forms to MAFF for the official vote; polling for which ends today (Fri).

Farmers were asked to say whether they were willing to pay an extra 0.03ppl levy on the milk they sell to fund a promotional drive. More than 60% of producers could vote in favour of the campaign, according to the farmers weekly survey conducted over the past week.

Almost two-thirds of producers who responded said that milk should be advertised regardless of its origin or brand. If the go-ahead for a campaign is granted, an average farmer with 100 cows would pay about £130 a year to fund £7million-worth of milk advertisements.

Richard Haslam, from Chester-field, Derbys, said retail milk sales had to increase by only 5% to boost the price paid to producers.

"My only fear is I hope the money is spent on good-quality advertising."

But more than one in three producers remain vehemently opposed to a promotional campaign, saying that farmers could ill-afford to fund it.

Some farmers doubt whether any extra sales generated by an advertising campaign would filter back to the farm-gate in the form of higher milk prices. Martin Harvey, from Newlyn East, Cornwall, said: "The dairy industry is in far better financial shape to fund any advertising campaign and they will be the first to benefit."

Dairy companies have pledged to match the money donated by farmers. Farm minister Nick Brown must now decide whether to endorse the campaign.

Mr Brown has said that a substantial number of dairy farmers must show their support for the proposal before he can give the go-ahead for advertising. Although it is unlikely, Mr Brown could still veto a promotional drive if he feels not enough farmers returned ballot forms. &#42