AS I SEE IT: Militant? Not me!

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AS a member of my local WI and a progressive dairy farming family, I have attended many FFA protests.

Always finding them amicable and well attended, and almost wholly by similar minded dairy farming family members of all ages and our allied suppliers as individual retail and processing policy indirectly affects us all.

I now find myself labelled as a militant again, by a faceless company spokesperson, along with many other upstanding individuals merely for standing up against the giants who are stealing fair income from our communities.

Dairy farmers have fought against all the odds with relentless and demanding schedules, despite seasonal illnesses and enduring the worst farming conditions for many years. With appalling summer, autumn and winter weather, plummeting milk yields and cull cow prices, poor silage crops and scarce and expensive alternative winter feed supplies. In an occupation with a suicide rate highest of any other sector and increasing work related injuries, RABI report steep rises in producers suffering financial difficulty with spiralling costs and cash flows under incredible pressure. Prince Charles and the Duke of Westminster have donated hefty sums to farming charities hoping also the general public will dig deep and provide financial support for the rural community.

DEFRA report an average farm gate price lower than 2011 and market forces and fair play would most certainly all point to further milk price increases. Instead it seems we are about to be kicked further into the mire by Arla UK who are planning the usual seasonal round of milk price cuts designed to force across the board cuts for all producers, preceding and undercutting other processors and possibly forcing some out of business.

Arla UK evolved from the former Express Dairies, the major dairy company in 1933 when the MMB was introduced partly to protect farmers from dairy companies like Arla UK.

Perhaps not coincidentally Arla UK are now a main supplier to major retailers, a sector that did not exist back in 1933. Major retailers secure core liquid supplies through small numbers of dedicated supply contracts, vital also for lucrative PR.

The big guns of corporate retail PR are in overdrive, battling to retain over generous margins while stemming the ebbing tide of recession hit consumers deserting their stores. Especially those consumers savvy enough to see beyond corporate smoke and mirrors the implications of the dairy crisis on the economy, local communities, wider agriculture, and our future staple food supplies. Ever increasing numbers of advisers and consultants, often with conflicting interests and no personal risk or financial investment, command salaries indirectly from farm income, and lifestyles far removed from the producers they claim to represent, often appearing to collaborate against producers, undermining their efforts.

Arla meanwhile have recently signed agreements with China’s leading dairy company China Mengniu Dairy Company Ltd. and with China’s leading food and beverage company, COFCO Corporation.

Perhaps the intention is for the Dairy to regain control the UK milk supply, to supply cheap UK milk to its Danish parent company to sell on at a higher price to meet increasing demands of the wealthiest of the Chinese population who do not trust their own factory produced milk supply.

When this shorts the UK liquid supply, consumer prices will then rocket and dairy farmers will as usual shoulder the blame!