CARWYN JONES, Welsh Assembly rural affairs minister, has admitted that he does not know how many dairy farmers can carry on producing milk.

“I just don‘t know how in the medium-term dairy farmers will be able to go on,” he told the annual meeting of the Farmers Union of Wales at Aberystwyth.

“People are not making any profit and this is unsustainable. It is time that the dairy industry realised this.”

Gareth Vaughan took up the same theme in his presidential address, accusing processors and supermarkets of treating producers shamefully.

They were employing the same bullying tactics as big corporations used in third world countries to obtain goods for a pittance, he said.

“What other industry would be able to cope with cut upon cut being imposed by much larger, hugely profitable businesses?

“It is a nationally disgrace that supermarkets and processors can drive down prices without reference to anyone.”

Mr Vaughan added they were forcing many farmers to pull out of milk production, or even into bankruptcy, by their selfish and arrogant attitude.

Much of the morning session was taken up with the spread of bovine TB. Speaker after speaker urged the minister to tackle the disease in wildlife, especially badgers.

Mr Jones admitted that something must be done to halt the 19% year on year increase in the number of Welsh cases, and to cut the £9m annual compensation bill.

But, while he acknowledged the wildlife connection, he insisted that there was insufficient scientific evidence to justify wholesale culling.

Prof John Bourne, one of Europe‘s top experts on the disease and chair of the Independent Scientific Group, agreed.

He suggested that more rigid cattle movement controls and better diagnostic tests were the key strategic priorities.

There was, he said, clear evidence of long distance spread of the disease that could not be linked to wildlife.

  • The Full conference report will appear in FARMERS WEEKLY on Friday, May 21.