UTTOXETER farmers’ joined thousands from across the country to make their voices heard over crippling milk price cuts.
The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) said around 600 West Midlands’ farmers headed to London’s Central Hall, in Westminster, for a summit to discuss the milk price cuts which could force many out of the industry.
Protest banners and placards reading ‘stop the cuts, save our dairy farms’ could be found among the 3,000 farmers at the event as packed coaches went to the capital.
It was also attended by industry representatives and the Minister of State for Agriculture and Food Jim Paice.
The summit followed announcements by Robert Wiseman, Arla Foods UK and Dairy Crest of further cuts of 1.7 pence per litre (ppl), 2ppl and 1.65ppl respectively.
NFU regional director John Mercer, dairy adviser Jeremy Lowe and farmers also met with MPs to discuss the crisis and call for support to help the ailing sector.
At the meeting Meurig Raymond, NFU dairy board chairman, said if price cuts were not rescinded by August 1 and if the industry’s demands were not met by the deadline, then the union would support targeted peaceful demonstrations outside processors and retailers.
He said the NFU would also mobilise the public with a concerted consumer campaign to help them understand the crisis and would be asking for their support.
Mr Raymond said: “Farmers are facing cuts of up to four pence per litre on milk when the farm gate costs of production are at an all-time high. The latest cuts are the feed bill, the wages, and the housekeeping.
“We are at a crisis point and this is not the responsibility of a few big retailers it’s the responsibility of all major dairy brand holders.
“We need to see the immediate reversal of the planned and recent price cuts, it was these that have put most dairy farm businesses into the untenable position they find themselves in today.” He called on the Government to take immediate action over the imbalance of power in the supply chain.
Mr Raymond added: “New working contract legislation is needed that fits the needs of the industry and I just can’t accept that the Government can’t act in this area.
“We also need to see a voluntary code of practice for dairy contracts brought in swiftly.” The minister pledged his support for farmers and outlined the areas where the Government is taking action, including on TB and funds for producer organisations.
Mr Paice made the announcement on new money after Prime Minister David Cameron used Prime Minister’s Question Time to unveil £5 million of funding through the Rural Economy Grant scheme.
Among those present at Central Hall was Uttoxeter MP Andrew Griffiths and Staffordshire County Council’s cabinet member for environment and assets, Councillor Mark Winnington.
He said: “The sheer numbers of farmers who made the journey to London shows the strength of feeling on this issue.
“I think public support for the farmers is growing and it has made everyone more determined than ever to stop these ongoing cuts.” The authority has more than 100 farms on its County Farm Estate, covering more than 8,500 acres and producing 50 million litres of milk per year.
Bill Cash, MP for Checkley, Tean and Alton, was among those in London and he stated: “The plight of our dairy farmers is something that affects the whole country and our sense of values and it is deeply unfair.”