Dairy Event 2009: Farmer representatives must improve negotiating skills

Dairy farmer representatives need to improve their negotiating skills when dealing with milk buyers if the destiny of the industry is going to change, the NFU has said.

Gwyn Jones, NFU Dairy Board chairman, said farmer representatives need to be more capable and willing to negotiate with processors and retailers to ensure producers are getting the best contracts and secure the future of dairying.

Speaking at the Dairy Event and Livestock Show in Stoneleigh, Warwickshire, on Wednesday (16 September), Mr Jones said the industry needed more long-term planning and investment, which would only come about through improved contracts.

“If there was a groundswell of movement of producers, contracts would change very quickly,” he added. “We know that won’t happen and that [getting improved contracts] is about evolution rather than revolution.

“How big these changes are depend on farmers. They are in control of their own destiny.”

Mr Jones said the NFU’s Next Generation Dairy Board had been tasked with looking at training and development in the industry, which included looking at contract negotiation skills of farmer representatives.

“We need to make sure we have people capable of negotiating who understand the possibilities of their role,” he added.

NFU president Peter Kendall said processors and retailers recognised British milk was a unique commodity and dairy farmers could take advantage of their position to secure better contracts.

“We want to push a smarter way of doing business because having a smaller UK milk field isn’t good for anyone,” he said.

“We want people to feel confident enough to make investments. We want to do business in a smarter way and get long-term planning back in the sector.”