Government must back dairy farmers in crisis, MPs warn

The government must show more confidence in the dairy industry to help farmers hit by plunging prices, an MP has warned.

Speaking after a dairy crisis meeting, south-west Wales MP Simon Hart said the government was making the right noises but was not taking clear action.

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Mr Hart was joined by 80 farmers, as well as secretary of state for Wales Stephen Crabb and chairman of the dairy all-party parliamentary group Neil Parish.

Mr Hart, whose brother-in-law is a dairy farmer, said the current crisis was the worst in recent times and was even threatening the future of the largest herds.

“If the government was to express its confidence in the industry, it might have a knock-on effect to lenders who might let farmers carry on a bit longer,” he said.

“[Farm minister] George Eustice has said all the right things but, in terms of getting into public procurement and resolving the issues of the groceries code and dairy voluntary code, those things it can do.”

After hearing farmers’ views in Narberth, Pembrokshire, Mr Hart and Mr Crabb are preparing a submission to the independent review of the Welsh dairy sector, headed by Andy Richardson, head of corporate communications at Volac.

The submission will raise issues including:

  • How the Welsh government can help the farmers who have been served notice on their contracts
  • What the groceries code adjudicator has done in dairy so far
  • Whether the dairy voluntary code is good enough
  • The government’s record in pushing public services to source more British dairy products.

The pair will also write to chancellor George Osborne, asking him if farmers could average profits over more years for tax purposes to ease the effects of volatility.

Mr Parish said there were no magic solutions.

“The key things are to talk up milk and milk consumption,” he said. “We do see the recovery coming but there are hard times ahead.” 

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