MP's Column

The amount farmers are paid for milk is in the news once again and it seems that decisive action will be taken. However, for some it may be too late. Dairy producers are getting 25-50% less for their milk today than twelve months ago and already 500 dairy farmers have been lost in the UK.

Supermarkets appear to be responding to this crisis following the initiative by Morrisons to launch a new brand that will give an extra 10p per litre of milk to farmers. This initiative relies on you and me choosing to pay an extra 23p for a four pint bottle of milk.

There is huge support in the UK for British producers so this initiative will help but more must be done to ensure our farmers can continue to provide the produce we need and avoid these dark periods in the future. As I write, Government Ministers are meeting with farm industry representatives to see what more can be done. The National Farmers Union has set out some reasonable actions that the Government can do to help which I fully support.

The NFU wants Government help to ensure fairness in the supply chain, to work to achieve ‘Country of Origin Labelling’ (CoOL) on milk and dairy products at EU level as a basic standard and to help with the development of an improved UK labelling code. They ask that Government also cuts red tape, simplifies cattle movements and reduces duplication of farm inspections. Government efforts to expand the UK export market are impressive but the NFU is right to ask the Government to do more to identify the barriers for accessing new markets and work with the industry to overcome them.

Whilst farming cooperatives exist and help farmers to compete more effectively, the Government can assist further collaboration between farmers through aiding the setting up of producer organisations in the dairy sector. The Government and local authority departments have worked to ensure more British produce is used in our hospitals and schools etc but there remains the need to work more coherently on promoting British agriculture within public procurement and in our schools.