Dairy farmers complaining about poor milk prices and difficult conditions must take action rather than sitting back and letting it happen.
That was the hard-hitting message delivered by Farmers For Action chairman David Handley at a meeting in Market Drayton last night (Thursday 16 May) attended by more than 300 farmers.
Producers were told to use the “tool given to them” in the form of the dairy voluntary code of practice, be brave to resign from contracts if they weren’t happy with the terms, communicate their problems with their dairy processor reps, and write to their MPs and MEPs to put pressure on non-compliant processors to sign up to the code.
“You are either men or mice. We [the FFA] are very disappointed at the number of farmers using the code to their advantage,” he said. “It was a tool given to you to take to your milk buyer to give you an opportunity to leave.
“If you are not going to do anything about it, those of us who represent you might as well go home and do nothing. We need you to help us, we cannot do it on our own.”
Dairy farmers were in a unique position to get in the “driving seat” and shape the future of their industry, because milk was in short supply and processors were worried, said Mr Handley.
He urged farmers to look into the possibility of forming producer organisations and said by working together, the industry would be in a stronger position.
When asked, Mr Handley confirmed that the FFA was unlikely to rejoin the dairy coalition, but it would continue to work with the bodies involved.
And on the possibility of future protests, he said the FFA would protest if its members wanted to but it would only do so on the premise that everyone got on board and protested together. However, first and foremost producers needed to make use of the code, he said.
DairyCo levy money and farm assurance
Alongside discussions about milk prices and contract terms, Mr Handley proposed moving DairyCo levy money into an organisation with the sole purpose of marketing, developing and promoting British dairy products.
Farm assurance was also in the firing line with many farmers attending the meeting complaining about new mobility scoring, which is set to become compulsory later this year.
“My view on farm assurance is that I was told it would give consumers confidence and I would get paid for it,” said Mr Handley. “But all I see is that we are told if we don’t have it, they won’t buy our milk.”