Dairy cows out at grass© Tim Scrivener

The Tenant Farmers Association (TFA) has called for a new strategy to help hard-pressed dairy farmers battling against low milk prices.

The association made the call as an updated Dairy Roadmap was launched highlighting efforts made by the industry to reduce its environmental impact.

At least half of all dairy farms were reliant either partly or wholly on a tenanted holding, said TFA national chairman, Stephen Wyrill.

See also: Dairy farm environmental progress ‘marches forward’

Many of them are facing severe cashflow and income deficits,” he said.

“As a tenanted dairy farmer myself I know exactly how difficult things are.

“We have had our expectations both raised and dashed so many times over past months but there is little which appears to be giving any confidence for the future.”

Groups such as Farmers for Action had been doing a sterling job in negotiating a bigger share of the retail and wholesale milk price for producers in a difficult market place, said Mr Wyrill.

But he added: “We desperately need to move to a position where dairy farmers are able to take control of their production and pricing. This is a complex area but we must grasp the nettle.”

The most important first step to make was import substitution, said Mr Wyrill.

An additional 1bn litres of domestic milk could be used if imported dairy products were replaced by dairy products produced by British farmers, he added.

Consumers had already voiced their support for British dairy farmers through initiatives such as the Milk for Farmers brand from Morrisons, said Mr Wyrill.

But it was frustrating that food manufacturers were continuing to find it difficult to source British dairy products even when they specified it. “This must change,” said Mr Wyrill.

The government should take the lead by changing its public procurement policies and significantly increase the amount of British product used in the public sector, he said.

Retailers and the food service sector should use their market power to require their suppliers to enter into producer organisation arrangements with dairy farmers, Mr Wyrill added.

This would better balance the supply chain and provide more sustainable returns for all parties.

At the same time we also need to be looking at better contract models, including more sustainable A/B style models, which have not been handled well to date,” said Mr Wyrill.