FARMERS FOR Action has attacked plans for a new organisation to represent the whole of the dairy supply chain, claiming it cannot see how it will help milk producers.
But the National Farmers Union has welcomed the idea, pointing out that it makes sense for all the people in the supply chain to work more closely together.
It has emerged that plans for a new industry organisation called Dairy UK, which would represent dairy processors, milk-selling co-ops and producers, are being discussed.
The body would replace the Dairy Industry Association and the Federation of Milk Groups, and have closer links with the farming unions.
But FFA chairman David Handley has pledged to fight the plans.
This is because leaked documents suggest the board of directors would have just two producer members who would be appointed by the NFU.
The other seats would be taken by the four main processors, the four main farmer co-ops, including United Dairy Farmers NI, a processor representative and a representative of milk bottlers.
“How can you have a unified voice for the dairy industry with just two producers,” said Mr Handley.
“It is absolutely ridiculous. This is going to give producers no power whatsoever and would do nothing for milk prices.”
If farmers were going to be asked to contribute to the funding of the organisation there would also be considerable resistance, added Mr Handley.
“They [the processors and co-ops] can dream about it. If they want to set something up, they can pay for it themselves.”
Tim Brigstocke, chairman of the Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers, said the concept of an organisation to represent the UK dairy industry was not new.
RABDF had been calling for a dairy board for many years, he said.
“However, for the time being, we do not have sufficient detail of the proposals for Dairy UK.
“Until we do, we quite genuinely have no idea how much this will improve the milk price to the beleaguered dairy farming sector.”
But Gywn Jones, head of the NFU‘s milk board, said he saw the creation of such an organisation as very positive.
“In a post-CAP world things have to move forward.
“We already have co-ops moving into processing and it makes eminent sense that all people in the supply chain work together.”
Donald Curry, the government‘s adviser on farming issues, told FARMERS WEEKLY that informal discussions about a cross-industry body were taking place and he was acting as an informal chairman at the meetings.
“Things are at a very early stage and everything is in draft form. If there are strong views on these proposals they will be discussed,” he said.