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Legal threat over milk price as Defra ramps up rhetoric

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: September 15, 2012

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Dairy processors have been handed a stiff ultimatum by the new Farming Minister, with the threat of legislation if they fail to adhere to the voluntary code of conduct.

Somerton and Frome MP David Heath, who took over the agriculture brief last week, said dairy farmers must be paid a fair price, or compulsory contracts would be introduced.

The stark message represents a toughening of language from Defra after accusations of weakness following a summer of unrest in which dairy farmers reacted angrily to crippling cuts in the price paid for milk by supermarkets and processors. against calls from MPs to have the threat of compulsory contracts on standby.

Liberal Democrat Mr Heath was speaking at a Westminster Hall debate in the House of Commons that followed a summer of blockades from farmers over hefty cuts to the price of milk paid by dairies.

The keystone of the code is for buyers to give dairy farmers at least 30 days’ notice of any changes to the farmgate milk price, and make it easier to break deals.

Dairy farmers face being paid less than the cost of production, meaning sharp cuts leave them in an even more parlous position.

While championing the need for the dairy industry to increase exports and form producer co-operatives, the minister said the code of conduct was the “biggest single thing” to improve the livelihoods of dairy farmers.

In a Westminster Hall debate, Liberal Democrat Mr Heath told MPs: “It’s a potentially momentous agreement.

“I hope it will start to open trusting relationships between the parties, because they need each other. And we can’t have warring in an industry that is mutually dependent.

“I am strongly optimistic this is the best way forward for securing a sustainable arrangement. But we have an option of legislating on contracts – and I shall be very clear on this. I will seriously consider making contracts compulsory if the code fails to deliver necessary changes.”

The tone was welcomed by Devon MP Neil Parish, who was instrumental in securing the debate. The Conservative MP for Tiverton and Honiton, himself a former farmer, said: “I absolutely welcome the minister’s comments that if [the code] doesn’t bite then he will legislate. I believe if you have that threat to legislate behind the code then the code will work.”

Aiming for supermarkets’ generous profits from milk, he added: “There is enough money in what the consumer is paying for milk – it’s just not getting back to the farmer.”

Around 40 MPs attended the three-hour debate. They called for the new groceries industry watchdog to be given more power, for “fair trade” milk akin to chocolate and tea to help British farmers get a better deal, and the Government not to step back from a pilot badger cull to tackle tuberculosis in cattle.

Totnes Conservative MP Sarah Wollaston warned celebrities against “queuing up” to oppose a cull as it risked heightening tensions. “We know farmers are at great risk from vandalism and direct action,” she said. “What they say can inflame the situation.”

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  • Jake_Blake  |  September 16 2012, 7:12PM

    Scientific process is established for a reason and must be followed. If we were to inject cattle with the BCG then they would all react to the skin test and hence slaughtered. Therefore we need a differential test i.e. the DIVA test. As soon as it is ready then it will be used but, not a day before approval. Without EU approval it's not just about exports, it's all the animals injected with the vaccine would be under EU control which has the power to ban all produce from vaccinated animals or go even further, i.e. would destroy thousands of farms overnight. So it wont happen without political protection and we're not going to get a protectionist move from a government fixated on growth. Hence why we have to wait for the EU. However, even with the approvals the BCG is only around 70% effective in clean animals and hence would leave a large proportion of cattle to be further infected by the badgers. And that's before we talk about the other animals that the badger can infect. The Welsh court case was was won technicalities and did not refute the science. The plan in Wales was for the IAA but, they made the application for the whole of Wales. Not all of Wales is like the IAA where TB is endemic in the badger population. The cull of the IAA was going to go ahead last year until the Labour party stopped it for political reasons. The RBCT you referred to actually resulted in large reductions in TB. Once again eradication of badgers will not occur even in a local level. Lord Krebs has himself agreed that badger culling works; archive.defra.gov.uk/foodfarm/farmanimal/diseases/atoz/tb/documents/bovinetb-scientificexperts-110404.pdf And then we get to the point, after all your deliberately misleading comments you ask people to join your veganist ranks. Brilliant, so the suffering of badgers and whatever species they come into contact with means nothing to you, it's all about swelling your own ranks.

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  • Jake_Blake  |  September 16 2012, 7:11PM

    Because supplying people with food isn't needed is it? It's not a decent job I suppose noumenal because food is a much unneeded luxury. Farm subsidies is an EU-wide plan which many British farmers would be glad to get rid of EU-wide. There's a reason Britain receives a rebate, it's because our farmers receive less than their counterparts. But, even within a market where the British farmer is disadvantaged we are politically assigned rules that go above and beyond what our counterparts. But, rather than achieve them we've excelled at them meaning we have some of the best welfare conditions in the world. And what do British farmer receive for all this, one of the worst milk prices in the EU. This is what the dispute is about. It's amazing how quickly you try and change the subject after two lines and most of that was twaddle. As for addressing TB which is endemic in the badger species; Wiping out badgers has never been and never will be apart of the culling. Culling will ONLY be carried out in high incidence areas and within them it will be closely monitored to ensure that even local extinction does not occur. i.e. It'll be watched closely by your friends in Defra (you know the one's giving you all the details). ***80% is cattle-to-cattle***, you're going to have to cite that one because that doesn't correspond with the government figures. But, as you have obviously missed, cattle controls are being tightened up even further, from the already is a very stringent cattle testing regime that goes above and beyond what any other nation has done in order to achieve TB-free status. You alleged illegal activity of badger culling but, if you have any proof of this then bring it forward. But, in reality the badger is not some magical animal. Just like all the other millions of animal corpses that line our roads the badger can also be killed by a high speed automobile. Deer are already being culled and you will notice certain celebrities against the cull are backing the slaughter of deer. However, you seem confused between the species, deer are a spillover-host as opposed to badgers which are maintenance hosts. Therefore the policies on each will be different. So we already have controls on farmers, cattle and deer but, not badgers, what is it you hate about badgers that makes you think they must be left alone to suffer with TB. There are many farmers already paying for the vaccination but, at some point logic and reality has to hit home. This is an article about farmers not receiving a fair price for their produce. Where is the money for vaccination exactly going to come from? Their making a loss for their produce, make further losses from TB and then must suddenly find thousands of pounds to plug the Natural England budget. But, vaccination in itself is not a silver bullet. It will have no effect on already infected badgers and this is the huge problem with the hotspot areas due to the high level of infection within the badger species. This leaves massive question marks over whether vaccination will be able to build up herd immunity within the badger species. This is where culling comes in because it reduces the weight of infection it means that post culling the likelihood of achieving herd immunity within the badger species is increased.

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  • noumenal  |  September 16 2012, 11:28AM

    Those who respect wildlife, and who are appalled by the imminent slaughter of our badgers, should consider giving up milk or at least trying to cut their consumption. Farmers care only about money, and that's why they will not pay to vaccinate the badgers. The vaccination of the cows is out of the question because it would destroy the vile, evil live export trade of 11 week old bull calves to the continent. The court in Wales accepted the appeal by the Badger Trust on all counts, including the scientific evidence, but Cameron and co. are not interested in science or moral decency. This verdict in the high court was made months ago - probably in some Freemasons' lodge, far from public scrutiny, and the announcement was timed to coincide with the Olympic hysteria. Since the previous 10 year 'cull' failed to reduce TB in cattle, the object is now to wipe out the badgers entirely, and this 'massacre will continue for the next 9 years. It has been denounced by Lord Krebs (who conducted the original 'cull') as well as Professor John Bourne, the leading scientific expert in this field.

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  • noumenal  |  September 15 2012, 12:05PM

    Farmers should get themselves a decent job - cleaning public urinals for instance.These people get colossal amounts of public money for abusing animals, but not content with exploiting their 'stock', they are now intent on wiping out our badgers. 80% of TB is the result of cattle to cattle transmission, but David Cameron and his pals in the Countryside Alliance will not address the real problem, and will do anything rather than upset the farmers. These are people to whom animal welfare is an alien concept. The farmers of course have been slaughtering badgers for years, and placing their corpses by the roadsides. When these barbarians have slaughtered all the badgers, they will turn their attention to one of the other species that also carry TB, although the deer will thankfully not be 'culled' – there are far too many powerful landowners who are making a fortune from venison. Farmers care only about money, and that's why they will not pay to vaccinate the badgers. The vaccination of the cows is out of the question because it would destroy the vile, evil live export trade of 11 week old bull calves to the continent. The court in Wales accepted the appeal by the Badger Trust on all counts, including the scientific evidence, but Cameron and co. are not interested in science or moral decency. This verdict in the high court was made months ago - probably in some Freemasons' lodge, far from public scrutiny, and the announcement was timed to coincide with the Olympic hysteria. Since the previous 10 year 'cull' failed to reduce TB in cattle, the object is now to wipe out the badgers entirely, and this 'massacre will continue for the next 9 years. It has been denounced by Lord Krebs (who conducted the original 'cull') as well as Professor John Bourne, the leading scientific expert in this field. Those who care about our wildlife should join the increasing boycott of meat and dairy products, or at least make a firm commitment to reduce their consumption. They should also boycott the initial target areas of Gloucestershire and Somerset. Try drinking soya milk, oat milk, rice milk, almond milk, or hazelnut milk, and do your arteries a favour by giving them a rest from all that cholesterol. Hit these farmers in their pockets - where it hurts most. BOYCOTT DAIRY.

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