The urgent call for a better milk price is being undermined by the NFU’s focus on tackling dairy business inefficiency, according to rival farmer organisations.
Farmers For Action chairman David Handley said he was concerned that the NFU was sending out messages on cutting costs, as it convinced retailers that producers could manage at current prices.
“When I hear that the NFU is holding up farms that can survive at 17p/litre as good examples, and that we should all be looking to improve profits by cutting costs, it angers me,” Mr Handley said.
“The FFA represents a lot of family farms which are run as efficiently as they can be. The only way for these farms to survive is by getting a better price for milk and getting it quickly.”
Eifion Huws, chairman of the Farmers Union of Wales’s milk and dairy produce committee, added his voice to the argument.
“It is ridiculous to urge dairy farmers to improve their management when Wales already has some of the most efficient milk producers in Europe,” claimed Mr Huws, who milks 140 Ayrshires on Anglesey.
“Welsh family farms make optimum use of grass and many do not want to expand their herds. If anyone needs to sharpen up their act it is the dairies so that they can start paying producers a fair price.
“We simply cannot continue selling milk for less than the 20-22p/litre it costs us to produce it. The NFU should forget about telling everybody to cut production costs and join the FUW in campaigning strongly for better farmgate prices.”
Some of the comments that riled the other organisations were published in NFU dairy board chairman Gwyn Jones’ weblog.
He wrote: “All our efforts at the NFU are aimed at increasing dairy farm profit which is very different to focusing on milk price alone, important as that is.
“We all have to look at our businesses and realise that higher milk prices are only part of the way forward.
“I knew the risks when taking this more progressive stance but it is still staggering to witness the breathtaking naivety and old thinking still out there.”
And, Mr Jones told Farmers Weekly: “Nobody has fought harder than I have to secure a higher milk price and I continue to do so.
“Highlighting the inefficiencies of dairy farms strengthened not weakened the negotiation stance in fighting for a fair milk price,” he added.
“It shows we are being realistic and facing up to the pressure of industry.
“Our milk price is not much worse than those across Europe we have to face up to that. There are efficiencies that can be made and that can lead to better profits.”
Read Gwyn Jones’ blog at www.nfuonline.com