Protest sign reading: Save British agriculture© Dinendra Haria/REX/Shutterstock

A young farmers’ club member has created an online petition on the government’s website demanding fairer prices for farmers.

Suzanne Cole, a member of Faringdon Seniors Young Farmers’ Club, set up the petition calling for new laws to ensure our farmers are paid at least the cost of production for their produce.

“Farming is one of the only industries in which businesses are paid less than the cost of production,” said the petition

See also: Dairy farmers threaten new round of milk protests

“Take the dairy industry for example; the cost of producing a pint of milk is between 25-33.5p/litre, yet the majority of British farmers are paid under 20p/litre.”

The petition said that since the year 2000, more than half of British dairy farms have closed down, with numbers falling from 28,000 to under 10,000 today.

However, the petition notes that besides dairy, other farming sectors are also suffering.

The supermarkets and the processors need to pass on a bit more of their profits to farmers, especially dairy farmers Suzanne Cole, Faringdon Seniors Young Farmers’ Club

The petition highlights an article published in Farmers Weekly in January which reported on forecasts by Defra that average farm income figures were due to fall sharply this year for cereal farmers (down 24%), general cropping (down 17%) and pig farmers (down 46%).

Ms Cole, who grew up on her family’s dairy, beef and arable farm in Eton Hastings, near Lechlade in Oxfordshire, said: “The supermarkets and the processors need to pass on a bit more of their profits to farmers, especially dairy farmers.

“If they don’t, eventually everyone will go out of business. They cannot go on being paid less than the cost of production. That’s unsustainable for any business in the long term.

“I’m hoping my petition will attract 100,000 signatures so that it can be debated in parliament.”

Brexit opportunity

Ms Cole believes the vote for Brexit is an opportunity to increase the country’s self-sufficiency in food and drink (currently about 60%) and promote the value of buying more British food to consumers.

Phil Bicknell, the NFU’s head of food and farming, said more efforts were needed to ensure a supply chain to allow farmers to be able to run profitable businesses.

He added: “For dairy farmers, there are some high-profile examples where businesses have had in place a cost of production mechanism to make sure this happens.

“But there are challenges over doing this more widely. As soon as we start talking about the groceries code adjudicator, there are always discussions about getting around price and market conditions. That’s the role of the adjudicator.

“I would prefer that farmers are getting fair returns from the market place rather than having to resort to rules and regulations.”