Farming crisis campaign
6:17am 21st June 2011
A delegation of dairy farmers from across Yorkshire and the North East is heading to Westminster to highlight the crisis facing the sector and seek the support of MPs.
Ten farmers1, representing the number currently leaving the industry every week, will make the trip as part of an ongoing campaign by the NFU to achieve a more secure future for remaining producers - 931 of whom farm in Northumberland, County Durham and Yorkshire2.
According to the NFU, a key problem for many dairy farmers is that current milk contracts offer no certainty or clarity on the price they will be paid for their milk from one month to the next. What's more, many are locked into contracts for anything up to a year with no way out even if the price they receive is cut.
This, says York farmer and chairman of the NFU's regional dairy board David Shaw, puts an intolerable stranglehold on producers and that is why he is leading the trip to Westminster.
"This is a problem that for too long has effectively forced dairy farmers out of business," he said. "But there is now some hope on the horizon and that's why we are urging MPs to take urgent action."
This 'hope' centres on a package of proposals developed by the European Commission to tackle fundamental problems within the dairy supply chain right across Europe.
Farmers believe these proposals, which cover contractual elements such as the farmgate price and contract length, could deliver real benefits in the UK, but to get them implemented needs the support of the government. The proposals will be voted on in the European Parliament in July so the race is now on to win vital support from MPs across the House.
"We will be urging our MPs to increase the pressure being put on the government to implement these proposals," added David. "We really need this and hope the government will then go on to work with us to draw up a contractual code of practice to promote fairer dealings between farmers and dairy companies.
"The government has a real opportunity here to raise the benchmark and help safeguard the future of hundreds of small family farms. Thanks to the support of Julian Smith, MP for Skipton and Ripon who helped us organise this trip, we hope to meet as many MPs as possible, explain some of the issues we face and urge them to back our campaign.
"Our message will be loud and clear - now is the time to back our dairy farmers!"
Alongside the trip to Westminster, dairy farmers across the region are being urged to do their bit by writing to their MPs and milk buyers as part of the campaign. Details of how to do this can be found on the NFU website - nfuonline.com - or via the NFU regional office at York on 01904 451550.
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