20 April 2000
Militant farmers harden their resolve

By John Burns

FAILURE to get constructive talks with dairies and supermarkets this week has raised the stakes and hardened attitudes among Farmers For Action members.

One supermarket has pledged to hold the price paid to dairies supplying its milk. But one supplier still reducing the price it pays to farmers.

Kelvin Linsley, an FFA spokesman said: “I think were getting the run around.

“But as more people start to see what is really going on we are getting more people wanting to take serious action.

“Our message to the dairies and supermarkets is theres no question of us backing down. Whatever action is necessary will be taken.”

News that a planned meeting of farmers with dairies and supermarkets to discuss prices will not take place after all has added fuel to the fire.

Robert Deane, south-west policy adviser for the NFU, tried to arrange the meeting two weeks ago.

But the dairies said the issues could be dealt with only by the Dairy Industry Federation and NFU headquarters in London.

On learning the news, Mr Linsley said: “We (the FFA) are continually being undermined by the NFU. Their meetings achieve nothing.

“I can promise the NFU that if it steps in our way this time its in for the chop.

“We have already got more than the 500 signatures needed to call an extraordinary meeting to start changing the constitution and elect different leaders.”

But NFU deputy president Tim Bennett said the union was not colluding with the DIF or the supermarkets.

The NFU could not negotiate prices because it had no milk to sell, he added.

The meeting would not be able to negotiate higher prices, though it might discuss pricing mechanisms related to production costs.

“Our role is making sure government, processors and retailers understand the gravity of the situation and that current low prices will put future milk supplies in jeopardy.”

Regarding the 500 signatures, Mr Bennett said only Council could change the constitution and he would stand by the NFUs democratic process.