UK farm leaders have called for urgent action after meeting government ministers to discuss the plight of Britain’s beleaguered dairy sector.
Defra secretary Liz Truss and farm ministers from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland met farm union leaders from across the UK on Monday (17 August).
The summit meeting at Defra HQ in London was attended by the presidents of the NFU, NFU Scotland, NFU Cymru and the Ulster Farmers’ Union.
Speaking afterwards, the four industry leaders issued a joint statement saying urgent measures were required to address a farm supply chain which was not working.
But they also warned that there would be no immediate respite for thousands of dairy farmers who are selling milk at less than the cost of production.
“We cannot allow the meltdown in the farming industry to continue,” said the statement.
“The secretary of state and the devolved agricultural ministers have today acknowledged the threats facing the farming industry and the need for urgent action.
“Our farming members now expect to see these words followed up with visible, tangible actions. The ministers should be in no doubt that the time for talking is now over.”
The statement said the meeting with ministers had agreed a series of actions that retailers and the food service sector should commit to urgently.
These include clearer country-of-origin labelling, better and more consistent promotion of British food and delivery of the government’s public procurement food policy.
Some of the issues facing farmers could only be tackled at EU level, the statement said.
There was agreement that the farm ministers would present a united position representing all UK farmers at an European farm council meeting in Brussels on 7 September.
“All parties agreed today to work on, and agree, the UK demands that will be put in front of the European agricultural ministers and the commission.
“The UK farming union presidents once again stressed the importance of timely BPS payments and ministers all committed to do all they can to ensure this happens.
“These payments are going to be essential to the cashflow of many hard-pressed farms.
“In the immediate short term, we look to the retailers and food service companies to ensure they are treating their farming suppliers fairly.
“We believe they have a responsibility to ensure that there is a sustainable farming industry and they need to understand their vital role in this to guarantee their security of supply in the future.”