28 March 1997

No to MDCcuts from poll

Most producers questioned by FW were angered by the cut in the MDClevy and hoped its remit would be extended to collect funds for generic milk promotion

A STRAW poll of producers indicated that most believe the Milk Development Council levy rate should stay the same, and there was a widespread feeling that some of the cash collected should be used to promote liquid milk sales.

However, there was considerable surprise that MDC had been unable to fund research topics at a time when the industry would need to become even more efficient to counter falling milk prices.

"We need more work on fertility, lameness, heifer rearing and all aspect of cow welfare," said Powys producer Ted Edwards. "If MDCs three year remit is preventing investment in long term research it should be extended."

Somerset milk producer Marshall Taylor was surprised and disappointed at the cut in funding. "I cant criticise the projects the MDC has funded so far, and we do need more information on combatting problems such as mastitis.

"However, I would like more levy money to be spent on economic research. We need a better system than margin over concentrate, and we also need to know how we can compete against countries such as the USA, who are going to take greater shares of our market.

"And we need generic advertising too; the MDC should have pointed out the benefits to producers when they asked whether they were willing to contribute more."

Somerset milk producer Finn Christensen was disappointed that the MDC has cut levy contributions. "I dont believe money should be collected for the sake of it, but any spare money should have been spent on generic advertising.

"Since generic advertising stopped, doorstep deliveries have fallen at twice their previous rate, and more milk is going into manufacturing. The milk industry wants – and needs – advertising, and we have to do it ourselves – no one else will."

Views of Cheshire dairy farmer Geoff Vickers were similar. "It seems a premature move – and a shame – to cut the levy when the MDC is up for review and spare funds could have been reallocated for advertising.

"Most producers have got used to paying the levy, and have almost forgotten its there. Some might agree that its a good thing to cut it as the milk price falls, but its short-sighted.

"When businesses come under pressure – as the dairy industry is with falling milk prices – the last thing they do is cut spending on R&D and advertising. We need to spend money to ensure we can cope with leaner times ahead," he said.

Gordon Newman, independent nutritionistsaid it was an appalling decision. A huge amount of research still needs doing; far too much is commercially sponsored work that is unavailable to farmers."

Oxon dairy herd manager Neil Rowe felt that the last thing we should be doing at the moment is cutting our potential spend on research. Its madness, a tragedy. The MDC ought to double the levy – you cant tell me there isnt enough work out there which justifys them spending the money.

"We need more people on the board who know both sides of the industry – practical farming and research – in and out.

"And we must get advertising back on the television. MDC must get its terms of reference changed to allow it to collect funds for generic promotion of milk products."

Devon dairy farmer Patrick Cock wouldnt like to see this as the start of a slippery slope to less research and Sussex dairy farmer Peter Harrison was horrified. "We ought to be doubling research to improve our competitive position, not reducing it, especially with pressure on milk price.

"Anchor butter spend more on advertising their butter than we do on our research and development. Just where do our priorities lie?"

Mike Calvert, general manager CWS farms and chairman of LINK sustainable livestock production committee felt there was little enough research being done as it was.

"Why not assess the benefits of different production systems or do something about all the research information available but unused because of lack of technology transfer. Theyd be value in pulling this work together and improving transfer of the information to farmers."

A minority of producers welcomed the levy cut, including Malgwyn Davies, Panteryrod, Aberaeron, Cardiganshire. He said that the surplus was a clear sign that the rate was set too high.

"Reducing it is no bad thing at a time when the milk price is falling. If MDC cannot find ways of spending our money I suggest they look at growing more protein on dairy farms."

Marshall Taylor:"We need more information on combating problems such as mastitis."

Geoff Vickers:"When businesses come under pressure, the last thing to do is cut R&D spending."

Nutritionist Gordon Newman:"Its appalling – a huge amount of research needs doing."

Oxon farm manager Neil Rowe: "We must get advertising back on television."


&#8226 Most producers against cut.

&#8226 More research work needed.

&#8226 Keen to promote liquid milk sales.