MPs to call for ‘OfMilk’ watchdog to help dairy industry

One hundred MPs, from parties across the political spectrum, are to call on the government to create an independent watchdog with the power to tackle the crisis in the dairy industry, Farmers Weekly has learned.

The MPs make up the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Dairy Farmers, which has concluded its long-awaited milk industry report and will present its findings to DEFRA secretary David Miliband next week.

The report will press for the toughest of lines to curb supermarket dominance over the dairy sector, including a regulatory body with the power to fine retailers which abuse their dominant position.

Group chairman, Conservative MP Daniel Kawczynski, told Farmers Weekly that the industry urgently needed this watchdog “with teeth”.

“Nothing else will do,” said Mr Kawczynski, who admitted that many of the MPs on the group had lost patience with the big retailers during the six months spent compiling the report.

“We have held talks with the supermarkets and realise that they just do not listen. With the exception of Waitrose, they are unsympathetic to the fact that farmers receive less than the cost of production for each litre of milk,” said Mr Kawczynski.

“I know we have taken the ‘nuclear’ option in calling for a statute regulatory body, but if we don’t have this, and have it soon, we won’t have enough dairy farmers to supply UK market demand. That staggering fact would put us in a uniquely regrettable position within the European Union,” he said.

Mr Kawczynski set up the group, which boasts Tory Party leader David Cameron among its ranks, to “raise the profile of British dairy farmers and to allow them to make a sustainable living”.

The proposed new watchdog would be similar to those that regulate other industries like OfWat for water or OfCom for telecoms.

“If these industries fail to comply with their regulatory bodies’ directives, then hefty fines can ensue. The dairy sector needs that same power,” Mr Kawczynski said.

Daniel Kawczynski has asked FWi to help add momentum to the call for a dairy industry watchdog by encouraging their MPs to join the All Party Group For Dairy Farmers.

If you are unsure about how to contact your MP, you can check which constituency you are in and find out who your MP is by entering your postcode on the following website.

Or you could call the House of Commons information line on 020 7219 4272 and provide them with your postcode.

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