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Derek Mead: NFU's dairy strategy has more holes than Swiss cheese

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: December 14, 2013

The NFU's dairy strategy fails to address any of the real problems facing farmers, says Derek Mead, and instead regurgitates the same  old talk about exports to Asia

The NFU's dairy strategy fails to address any of the real problems facing farmers, says Derek Mead, and instead regurgitates the same old talk about exports to Asia

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These days I tend to hold any announcement by the NFU up to the light to see where the holes are.

And as far as its statement on a bright new future for the dairy industry is concerned, it appears to have set a new record for issuing something which contains more holes than substance.

It does little more than reiterate the point that valuable global markets are opening up for British dairy products – something we have known for some considerable time. Indeed, the foundations are already being laid for a thriving trade with Asia.

That's fine. But what farmers need to know is that these additional outlets for dried milk and other commodities are going to bring welcome relief from the vicious downward pressure on prices which is still threatening to stifle the life out of a once-great industry.

Alas, while the statement contains plenty of blather of sustainability, economic, social and environmental "pillars" nowhere does "prosperity" or even "profit" occur.

Hardly surprising, really, since the NFU's partners in this wonderful strategy include Dairy UK, which has spent the last two decades screwing farmers into the ground, and DairyCo, which has done nothing but stand back and watch.

I see nothing in this document which offers any incentive to farmers, no signpost pointing to a new way of doing things where farmers are in the driving seat and holding the reins of the milk market firmly in both hands.

It is not spelled out as such but the text of the document seems to hint at a need for dairy farmers to become more efficient by becoming larger, which would be an unmitigated environmental disaster with huge tonnages of feed having to be hauled around and huge volumes of slurry to be dealt with at the other end.

Why shouldn't a farmer be able to make a decent living from a 100-cow herd? Why should dairy farmers be dictated to by consultants like of Andersons, Kite and Promar, whose staff have never had to get up to milk the cows, never had to run a dairy farm and wouldn't be able to – though seem to have an intimate knowledge of the economics of doing so.

Why should farmers be tied, via the consultants, to supermarket agreements which limit what they can earn and which amount to nothing more or less than putting them on the pay roll? Dairy farmers know precisely where they want to go and how they want to go about doing it. They have knowledge, experience and expertise running through their veins and they neither need nor want advice from bean-counters or the jumped-up barrow-boys who run the multiples.

The strategy document is so devoid of substance, in fact, that it will not even provide enough material to paper over the cracks that are widening by the day in the dairy sector, where ominous shortages are now starting to loom.

Last Christmas the spot price for milk hit 40p. What will it be this year?

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  • robob123  |  December 16 2013, 11:40AM

    As ever, Derek Mead writes with passion and conviction about his favourite (and apparently only) subject of interest - his hate for the NFU. Meanwhile, the rest of the industry (including those farmers who devote so much time and energy to the NFU) are getting on with trying to create a positive future. Derek, haven't you got something else to do with your time, besides sniping from the side-lines?

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