Clearly British campaign: Farmers believe clear labels have key role to play in survival battle

Farmer Paul Tompkins of South Acre Farm, Melbourne near York in the milking parlour on his farm. (GL1007/98b)
Farmer Paul Tompkins of South Acre Farm, Melbourne near York in the milking parlour on his farm. (GL1007/98b)
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FATHER-OF-TWO Paul Tompkins, and his wife Rachel, milk 250 pedigree Holstein cattle at South Acre Farm in Melbourne, in the Vale of York.

Like almost every other dairy farmer across the country, he is facing an uncertain future because he receives farm gate prices for his milk that fall well short of covering the costs of production.

Mr Tompkins,a member of the National Farmers’ Union, believes clearer labelling of dairy products is essential.

“Walk into any supermarket in the UK and you’ll see that labelling on dairy products is unclear,” Mr Tompkins said.

“I think the problem is the large scale manufacturers who import significant amount of product and dress it up as being British. I believe we may need some sort of legislation to encourage processors to label products clearly.”

Mr Tompkins said he wants the European Commission to rethink its opposition to mandatory labelling of dairy products but if a consensus cannot be achieved between member states, he believes the UK government has to look at what it can do to affect change.

“Mandatory labelling is the way forward because at the moment it’s only convenient for a lot of retailers to label dairy products as British when it suits them to help their brand or their sales,” he said.

“Farmers and shoppers have a great relationship in this country and from my experience, from talking to shoppers, they want to help. Any tools we can arm them with to help them to do that are all the better, and any increase in demand for British dairy products will have an effect at the farm gate.

“On my farm, the current situation is financially crippling. I consider myself as a good, progressive and innovative farmer and I’m still struggling.

“If we want to see a vibrant dairy industry in the UK we have to look at steps like better labelling.”

Mr Tompkins milks his herd twice a day and produces enough milk in a year to fill an Olympic sized swimming pool - some 2.5 million litres. The majority of the milk is bottled and sold at convenience stores.

For more reporting on our Clearly British campaign, click here.

And sign our petition calling for clear dairy labelling here.