MP committee to be recalled over dairy crisis

MPs will be recalled from their summer holidays to discuss the deepening dairy crisis, according to reports.

Social Democratic and Labour Party MP Margaret Ritchie said she had received confirmation that the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) committee will be recalled before summer recess ends to discuss the growing crisis in dairy.

Ms Ritchie, who sits on the EFRA committee, told the Newry Times: “The recall of the EFRA Committee is important as we must take every step possible to ensure that the current crisis faced by our dairy industry is recognised and accepted at all levels of government.

See also: Ministers set for talks as farm crisis deepens

“The committee recall follows my discussions with farm minister (George) Eustice.

“I look forward to the meeting of the EFRA Committee; a cross-party Westminster committee, and the further gathering of support at all levels of government to pursue meaningful ways to resolve this situation and bring about long-term stability for the dairy industry and our agrifood economy in Northern Ireland.”

Earlier, Ms Ritchie had called for the EFRA committee to be urgently reconvened to tackle the crisis in falling milk prices, which has been crippling diary farm businesses.

EFRA is a cross-party committee of UK MPs, which examines the work of Defra. 

But a Defra source said the department had yet to receive confirmation of the recall.

Meanwhile, UK farming union leaders and farm ministers from Belfast, Edinburgh and Cardiff are preparing to meet at Defra’s headquarters in London on Monday (17 August) for a summit to discuss the financial crisis across the farming industry.

‘No quick fix solution’

Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) president Ian Marshall said he would use the meeting with Defra secretary Liz Truss to make clear that the problems of the farming industry are not confined to the dairy sector. 

“The problems the industry faces need both short and long term action, and will be making that clear to the Secretary of State at the meeting”
Ian Marshall, Ulster Farmers’ Union 

“We recognise that this is not about seeking a quick fix solution,” said Mr Marshall.

“The problems the industry faces need both short and long term action, and will be making that clear to the Secretary of State at the meeting,” he said.

In the short term the UFU, and others, want the UK government to press EU farm commissioner Phil Hogan to accept there is a need to review the intervention price for dairy products.

It sees this as a way to shake the commission out of its denial that farming is facing a crisis. 

“There are however longer term issues – and these centre on supermarkets needing to pay a price that will ensure the already poor 60% level of self-sufficiency for UK food does not get worse,” added Mr Marshall.