7 May 1999

FUW slams council ban on fresh milk in school canteens

By Robert Davies

CARMARTHENSHIRE County Council has banned the use of fresh milk for cooking in school canteens and replaced it with milk powder imported from Ireland.

Peter Davies, the Farmers Union of Waless county executive officer, described the decision as appalling and insensitive at a time when the dairy sector is in crisis.

It was also a shocking contradiction of the help the local authority given for launching a Farmers Market, and of the £300,000 funding for Carmarthenshire Farm Foods. "Ironically, a letter regarding that initiative said the county council wanted to help to address the problems facing rural areas following the decline in the dairy sector," said Mr Davies.

"There are more dairy farms in Carmarthenshire than in any other Welsh county and nobody in farming can understand how this absurd decision was taken. I have been told the aim was to cut costs, but the money saved will be a modest part of the total education budget. Milk powder mixed with water is a dreadful substitute for pure wholesome local milk."

Producer retailer Derek Evans, Fron Gelli, New Inn, who supplied milk to three kitchens preparing food for five schools, said he was still delivering a small amount for milk shakes, but sales had fallen by over 80%. "I am disgusted that an inferior product is being served up to children," he said. "When the parents find out I hope there will be an outcry."

John Rees, the councils director of operations, said milk was one of eight ingredients looked at. The council spent £50,000 a year on milk for school canteens and advice indicated that switching to powder did not reduce the nutritional value of prepared food, and could at times improve it.

"I am very aware of the problems of the farming industry, but I have to make a commercial decisions that help safeguard the jobs of 600 people working in about 80 establishments," said Mr Rees. "The size of the saving is confidential, but it is very significant." &#42

Early Rogation for silages sake

A FORMER ADAS adviser turned priest held a Rogation service a week early last Sunday (May 2) to allow his farming parishioners to get on with silaging this weekend.

Nigel Done of St Peters Church, North Wootton, near Wells, Somerset, said that, traditionally, Rogation Sunday was the fifth Sunday after Easter and a time for giving thanks for spring crops and new life.

"But the date is flexible and I wanted to fit the service in with agricultural business in the parish to get as many people involved as possible," said the Rev Done, a former environmental consultant and farmers son. "It is important to get the farming community together at this time of economic hardship. And this year, as well as thanksgiving, the service focused on prayer for the farmers who have gone out of business and for those in financial difficulty," he said.

The Rev Done, who will be ordained this summer, said: "The usual end to a farming career is a farm sale. We wanted to mark the end of these working lives and a way of life that has existed for generations in some families, with a fitting service of thanksgiving and remembrance as well."

Poignantly, local dairy farmers Edwin and Mary Speed took some of their youngstock to the service prior to a dispersal sale. &#42

Edwin and Mary Speed took some calves to Rev Dones Rogation service, which, as well as thanksgiving, also focused on the financial hardships facing many in the farming community.

Meat industry a big polluter?

MEAT production is second only to cars and trucks in terms of its contribution to environmental damage, according to a new report.

American researchers have concluded that the industrial production of beef, poultry and pork has a significant impact on global warming, air and water pollution and the alteration of natural habitats.

Analysis by the Union of Concerned Scientists found that only cars and lorries, responsible for more than a quarter of all common air pollutants, resulted in more ecological damage. &#42

Union to fight arson

THE NFU is launching a new campaign to combat the problem of arson in the south-east region.

About 5000 educational packs will be distributed to schools in the area as part of the Just One Spark campaign. The aim is to prevent arson by educating young people about the impact of fires and encouraging them to report arsonists.

NFU Mutual estimates that arson cost the farming industry £6.5m in 1997. Deliberately caused farm fires are estimated to account for over a quarter of all farm blazes. &#42