Concessions offered to dairy farmers by the government this week fail to address fundamental issues that are forcing milk producers out of business, industry leaders have warned.
Over 2500 farmers descended on London for a dairy summit in a fight back against milk price cuts that threaten to wipe more than £50,000 off the average farm income.
Milk producers from across Britain gathered for the event at Central Hall, Westminster, on Wednesday (11 July).
“Never before have I seen before such an outpouring of horror and anger from farmers,” NFU deputy president Meurig Raymond told the audience. “Nor have I ever seen such a show of unity and determination to right the wrongs that have been inflicted on dairy farmers.”
The emergency summit – organised by the NFU in less than six days – came after farm minister Jim Paice attempted once again to “bang heads together” and broker a deal on milk prices and contracts between dairy processors and farm leaders.
Mr Paice told producers he had hoped to announce that processors and farmers had finally reached an agreement on a voluntary code of practice that would oversee dairy contracts. Although a deal was “tantalisingly close”, a deal had still not been reached, he said.
The sticking point continues to be the finer detail surrounding the amount of notice producers should serve before they are allowed to walk away from contracts if they disagree with a price change imposed by dairy processors.
Rejecting repeated calls for legislation, Mr Paice confirmed that the government would “make money available” to help farmers create producer organisations that would be able to market milk on behalf of producers in a bid to obtain a better price from processors.
It came after David Cameron used Prime Minister’s Questions to unveil an additional £5m funding under the government’s Rural Economy Grant scheme. But this and other concessions on planned measures that would affect dairy farmers failed to appease listeners (see below).
David Handley, leader of Farmers For Action, repeated his warning that farmers would take direct action unless all price cuts imposed since 1 April were reversed by the beginning of August. “This industry is being screwed every day of the week,” he said.
Opposition politicians have also condemned price cuts that have seen farmgate milk prices slashed by up to 4p per litre. Many producers on non-aligned contracts face the prospect of receiving less than 25p for milk that costs more than 30p to produce.
Shadow DEFRA secretary Mary Creagh MP said: “This race to the bottom on farm-gate prices is bad for farmers, bad for the dairy industry and bad for consumers.”
- Slurry Stores – The government has abandoned plans to end an exemption that would have forced farmers to rebuild older slurry stores so they comply with SSAFO anti-pollution regulations.
- NVZs – DEFRA has ditched plans to designate the whole of England a Nitrogen Vulnerable Zone – although NVZs will be altered on an area-by-area basis.
- £5m – additional funding announced by David Cameron. The Prime Minister said but the funding will be available only in certain areas and farmers will also be allowed to apply.
For more on milk price cuts
See our dedicated page on the milk price crisis
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