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‘Unity is strength for dairy farmers’
HARNESSING the collective strength of dairy farmers who protested against farmgate milk price cuts into something positive and empowering is the dairy coalition’s next big challenge, a conference heard.
Rob Newbery, NFU chief dairy adviser, also told 200 people at the conference in Penrith about Dairy Coalition plans to create a whistle-blowing mechanism, which would operate via a website, for anyone who witnesses or experiences bad practice in the dairy supply chain – specifically breaches of the code of best practice for dairy contracts.
He said: “We need to turn the success of our short-term collaboration into long-term change. We all need to be identifying export opportunities for our Great British dairy products. On the theme of collaboration, there has been a lot of talk about producer organisations (PO).
“The NFU is putting together a database of farmers interested in forming a PO. We want our members to have all the correct information about the formation of a PO.
“There are some big questions that need answering such as: what will they look like? How will they deliver a better milk price? And, how will POs sell milk?”
There was a lot of support for the NFU’s PO plans at the conference. Billy Swainson, of Moorpark Farm, Thurstonfield, Carlisle, said: “A supermarket buyer once said to me that farmers will only get what they’re worth when they work together.
Until then, they’ll only get what they deserve.
“Only through collaboration will we get what we are worth.”
The event was organised by NFU North-West in association with First Milk. Chaired by Rory Stewart, Penrith and the Border MP, speakers included Mark Voorbergen, independent dairy consultant, Kate Allum, chief executive of First Milk, and Farming Minister Jim Paice.
Majoring on the need to embrace exporting, Mr Paice said: “We have a £1.2bn deficit in dairy products in this country. Virtually all of it could be produced by our own farmers. We can have up to 33 per cent of the county’s entire dairy production in one producer organisation.
“That’s a massive amount of milk. We have to claw back the 25 per cent of the dairy industry we currently import and I believe we have the ability to do that.”
- The Dairy Coalition has renewed its challenge to milk buyers to urgently reverse price cuts made in May and June.
Members will be at Livestock 2012 (incorporating the Dairy Event) at the NEC, Birmingham, on September 4 and 5 where farmers interested in forming a PO will be able to add their details to the database.
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