Dairy crisis: Frome meeting on the10th, attended by 150

18 09 2014
farmers at frome meeting 9.14



THURSDAY 25 SEPTEMBER 2014 7.30pm for 8 pm

Speaker: David Handley, Chairman of FFA

david handleyNon members welcome, bring along a car load and share your views on the way forward in the current turmoil within our industry. The restaurant will be open to serve light refreshments.

In brief, the FFA argument against reasons given for price cuts:

As at least 80% of our milk goes to the domestic market global market figures so market movements are completely irrelevant. The amount exported to Russia is miniscule. (Western Daily Press)


President Meurig Raymond said most farmers recognised that price cuts were a result of increased world milk production in the world’s major milk producing countries. “It is a global phenomenon. It is very difficult to look at any villains or target processors at the moment when they are feeling the global pressure of over-supply”.

More on David Handley’s thinking tomorrow on the Food Security website.


Requesting legislation on farmgate prices across all commodities

6 09 2014


Ian Potter’s latest mailing records that in the space of five months First Milk’s liquid contracted producers have seen 7.4ppl knocked off their milk price equivalent to an 30% drop, to give a 1st October standard litre price of only 25.1ppl. Its cheese contracted producers have had five consecutive cuts totalling 6.4ppl to produce a new 1st October standard litre price of 26.1ppl. First Milk’s comment: “The milk buying price is in line with current market returns”. . .

Though admitting it is a very difficult job to bring farm organisations together and more so the different farming sectors, the quietly persuasive William Taylor (Coleraine, Farmers for Action Northern Ireland, coordinator of Farmers for Fairness in Europe) is hoping to “pull this off in Northern Ireland across all the commodities”.

william taylor 3 europeanHe has been preparing the ground for years at national and European level – seen here in 2012 preparing to hand over a letter to the NI (Belfast) European Commission Office manager Colette Fitzgerald, and – later – to Commissioner Dacian Ciolos, EU Commissioner for Agriculture at Greenmount CAFRE Agricultural College Campus Antrim on a visit to Northern Ireland.

Currently in Northern Ireland six organisations, including FFA, have been brought together with reference to beef cattle residencies (factories in NI cutting 25p/kg off any animal that has more than 4 farm residencies).

These organisations are also ready to go forward together with the Blueprint for Northern Ireland, on an equal basis, meeting the Northern Ireland Agriculture Committee at Stormont in October (below, the 2013 committee).

stormont agri-committee

At this meeting, now after 12 months lobbying, the Agriculture Committee will be asked (after some straight talking) to go forward and request legislation on farmgate prices. The groups will go with the Agriculture committee or the Minister of Agriculture, whichever will move first to request the legislation.

William Taylor comments that if this succeeds in Northern Ireland across all the commodities then southern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England would want the same. A meeting of Fairness for Farmers would then brief them to go back to their respective parts of the UK and Ireland and make the same request.

He ends, “This is the plan: I cannot say we will succeed but we are going to try and I think this is the best way forward for all farmers across the UK and Ireland – there will be no more news about our progress until after the October meeting with the Agriculture Committee at Stormont.


Prices below cost of production: farmers need to come together

13 08 2014

checking moisture content of wheatBruce Udale and daughter Isabel Moseley check the moisture content of the wheat at their farm at Eyton, Telford

The price currently being paid for wheat has fallen from more than £200 per tonne two years ago to closer to £120 today, and Bruce Udale said that was the main drawback for farmers:

“The price is awful. At £160 or £170 it was too high, but it has gone to the other extreme now.”

The Shropshire Star then noted that there will be a good apple crop this year; will growers get a fair price?

David Handley of Farmers for Action writes:

david handley 5Grain, dairy, beef, pigs – all are suffering low prices. Farmers need to come together and stop this rot once and for all. We must all act now to protect our livelihoods, nobody else will do it for us!

He noted grain market reports: Low moisture – good bushel weights – but no premiums being paid!

Grain merchants need to explain themselves!

Handley asks “Why is this happening? Grain farmers have worked hard in 2014 to achieve what the market requires at great cost, but their ‘reward’ is prices below cost of production. This is not sustainable.

“Yet all others in the supply chain maintain their margins”.


Last week the drop in lamb prices; this week milk prices are in the spotlight

1 08 2014


Unless British food producers in all sectors combine, they will continue to connive at their own exploitation.


nfus logo


As the number of Scottish dairy herds diminishes, the Scottish Farmer reports a call from NFU Scotland for dairy farmers to demand answers from their milk buyer when the price they are paid abruptly drops.

This follows a raft of milk price cuts this summer – the latest being a €1.25 per kg drop in the Arla Foods amba on-account price from August 4. When applied through the pricing mechanism, this equates to a 0.94p drop in Arla’s UK standard litre price, taking its standard litre to 31.58p.

The chairman of the union’s milk committee, Gary Mitchell, told The Scottish Farmer: “It is vital we build up a better relationship between producers and their buyers. There has to be two-way conversation. Just because one buyer drops the price shouldn’t mean that others have to follow suit. We are calling on every dairy farmer not to sit back and simply accept what they are told. They should be demanding an explanation as to why prices go up or down.”

Commenting specifically on the Arla amba price cut, Mr Mitchell said that this was disappointing, but a reflection of the downturn in global markets.

He added: “NFUS has met several times with Arla senior management and elected farmer members to help us understand the governance, democracy and pricing policy. That included the company sitting down in private with our milk committee.

If they don’t have a producer group they should ask why not?” he suggested.

It isn’t working: below, protests outside the Scottish parliament in 2009

 scots dairy farmers protest


According to the union, if processors want long-term farmer commitment, they must pay a price that reflects their own company performance, rather than employing a policy of knee-jerk price changes in response to what others in the marketplace have done.


Who will be short-changed next? Salad growers? Pork producers?

Solidarity should be the food producers’ watchword.


Divide and rule: lamb producers protest, following milk producers – who next?

28 07 2014


As Chinese feed producers combine to get a fair price and reduce imports, sheep farmers here protested against Tesco’s promotion of low cost New Zealand lamb during prime British lambing season outside its stand at the Royal Welsh Show last week.


tesco protest sheep farmers


Around 60 farmers held placards saying, “New Zealand isn’t Welsh” and “Welsh lamb is in season. Where is Tesco’s backing?”

“Using pity doesn’t strike us as the best way to motivate British consumers to ditch free range grass fed New Zealand lamb for British lamb,” said Rick Powdrell, Australia’s Federated Farmers Meat & Fibre chairperson.

NFU livestock board chairman Charles Sercombe said: “Livestock farmers here and across the country are angry, disappointed and frustrated at the way some retailers are continuing to promote an end-of-season product, which many view as inferior, over Red Tractor-assured, fresh lamb produced in the fields, valleys and hills of England and Wales”. New Zealand lamb is currently at the end of its season, while British lamb is at its peak.

Mr Sercombe added that this retailer is failing to live up to the commitments made by their outgoing chief executive Philip Clarke at the NFU Conference last year that Tesco should be the best supporter of British farmers and that it wished to shorten the supply chain.

Unless British food producers combine across all sectors, they will continue to connive at their own exploitation.


Fair Trade for UK food producers – a lost cause?

16 07 2014


In 2006, Michael Hart [Small and Family Farmers' Alliance] – following negotiations with the Soil Association & the Fairtrade Foundation – emailed:

While I continue to like the idea of fair trade for UK farmers (in fact for all farmers). I suspect that, in order to work, it would have to be done by the UK farming organisations working together . . . 

In 2007-2008 there was active campaigning for a fair deal for food producers see details here:

  • The Farmers’ Union of Wales,
  • Farm,
  • National Federation of Women’s Institutes,
  • Church of Scotland,
  • NFU,
  • Farmers Guardian,
  • Country Living magazine,
  • The Church of England’s Ethical Investment Advisory Group,
  • The National Pig Association,
  • NFU Scotland,
  • The Scottish Fair Trade Forum,
  • Farmers for Action,
  • And MPs Lindsay Hoyle, Roger William, Andrew George, Elfyn Llwyd, AWP Mick Bates

Letters to the NFU’s farming organisations, each representing producers in different sectors and to individual food producers, hoping for a wider input got no such result.

Michael Hart has been proved right and the sad conclusion of the editor of this website is that Fair Trade for UK food producers is indeed a lost cause, despite his campaigning and the stalwart efforts of the late Andrew Hemming, David Handley Kathleen Calvert and William Taylor.


Divided and ruled: no co-operation within; TTIP: an imperial enemy without

1 07 2014


The Journal, a north-eastern daily, reports that farming union leaders met in London for a ‘presidential’ summit in June.

farmers london juneRepresentatives from the IFA, UFU, NFUS, NFU Cymru and the NFU were unanimous that the current downward spiral of farmgate prices was causing serious damage to farmers’ confidence and called for an end to the short termism that will threaten the long term future of the beef supply.

They urged retailers, processors and caterers to start to take responsibility for the decisions they make and the impact those decisions have on the sustainability of the beef sector. Waitrose and Dovecote Park, its dedicated beef supplier, were singled out for their ongoing long-term commitment to their producers. Waitrose sells only British beef in its stores.

NFU president Meurig Raymond said: “Consumers made it clear during Horsegate that they value shorter supply chains, with provenance high on their agenda. At that time major retailers made statements of the importance of economically sustainable supply chains and a commitment to build confidence with producers for a long-term supply of beef. Now is the time that is going to test how deep those commitments run.”

UK union leaders were united on the need for government and businesses to work to ensure that any beef imports meet the same high standards as those asked of British and Irish assured beef. But . . .

High standards – and prices – under threat from cheap imports

TTIP march meeting

All this is under threat. Negotia­tions for the Transatlantic Trade and Invest­ment Partnership (TTIP) – a wide-ranging trade pact between the United States and the European Union – include rethinking the EU’s bans on genetically modified (GM) goods, hormone-treated beef, and chlorine-washed poultry products, regulations which have been in place in the EU for years to protect EU consumers.

Beef production is America’s largest agricultural sector, with more than 1,000,000 businesses, farms and ranches. Texas heads the list of the country’s top ten beef producers in 2012.

Today there will be another farmers’ union meeting in London but the writer sees no hope for any improvement in conditions for food producers until milk, meat, poultry, egg, fruit and vegetables producers work together across the board, instead of focussing only on their own sector’s interests. To date the industry has been successfully divided and ruled.



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