DCSIMG

Farmers pack Lanark Agricultural Centre for milk meeting

N. F. U. S. Dairy Crisis Meeting
Lanark Agricultural Centre
30/7/12

N. F. U. S. Dairy Crisis Meeting Lanark Agricultural Centre 30/7/12

Historic was a word used several times on Monday as Lanark Agricultural Centre bested many an Olympic venue by being absolutely packed to the rafters with farmers massed there from throughout Scotland and beyond to declare open a new era of fairness for those who produce our daily pints.

Historic was a word used several times on Monday as Lanark Agricultural Centre bested many an Olympic venue by being absolutely packed to the rafters with farmers massed there from throughout Scotland and beyond to declare open a new era of fairness for those who produce our daily pints.

Although it often sounded and felt like a victory party, Monday’s event in Lanark was more akin to a half-time pep talk in the dressing room in a match where the farmers’ team is one-nil up against the milk processors and supermarkets it is claimed are short-changing them for their produce.

The announcement that the nation’s biggest processor, Wiseman, intended to cut even more below the production cost the price it paid per litre at the farm gate sparked a nationwide rebellion born with a gathering of 350 angry farmers at Lanark three weeks ago.

On Monday double that number turned up to reflect on the success - so far - of what their subsequent campaign of demonstrations and lobbying had achieved.

Farming leaders all said that their main victory was getting it home to the public that dairy farmers were getting paid less per litre of milk than it cost them to produce it, even before the latest cut.

Under pressure, late last week Wiseman dropped that proposed cut, saving farmers nationwide £130m.

That was certainly celebrated on Monday but it was declared at the meeting that a new `umbrella’ body, Dairy Farmers Together, would now have to be formed to ensure a fair pricing policy from now on.

It would encourage groups of dairy farmers in areas like, say, Clydesdale, to band together into local co-operatives to give them more bargaining power when discussing prices with the processors and retailers.

A reflection of just how important for the whole of the UK Monday’s event in Lanark was came when the Welsh National Farmers Union president Emyr Jones, who’d travelled hundreds of miles to Lanark to attend, declared: “I am glad I came here today, I will remember this day for the rest of my life.

“This is a new beginning.”

The meeting was attended by Scottish Government agricultural secretary Richard Lochhead who had the rare, perhaps unique, experience of a minister addressing the industry he oversees getting a standing ovation during his speech.

In fact, he got three.

He got one for announcing an instant £100,000 Scottish Government start-up grant for the new Dairy Farmers Together organisation.

He also got the farmers off their seats clapping and cheering when he declared: “If the supermarkets want to sell milk cheaply as part of a competitive campaign, then that is THEIR issue. THEY should pay the costs of doing that - not the farmer!”

He went on: “It is not the farms that are dysfunctional; it is the system of paying them that is.”

He added, again to an ovation, that should a new voluntary code of fair pricing not be worked out between the farmers, the processors and the supermarkets, then the Scottish Government would pass a law to enforce one.

At the end, he - and about 700 other people - looked very pleased indeed they’d come to Lanark.

 

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