Yorkshire farmer lands national dairy role

Tom Rawson has been appointed vice chairman of the NFUs dairy board, and is aware of the huge tasks ahead.  Picture: Bruce Rollinson.
Tom Rawson has been appointed vice chairman of the NFUs dairy board, and is aware of the huge tasks ahead. Picture: Bruce Rollinson.
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West Yorkshire farmer Tom Rawson has been appointed vice-chairman of the National Farmers’ Union’s dairy board.

New office holders were appointed this week, and Dewsbury-based Arla supplier Mr Rawson said he was under no illusions about to the hard work ahead as he teams up with West Midlands farmer Michael Oakes who succeeds Rob Harrison as dairy board chairman.

He said: “It’s going to be a tough two years, I don’t underestimate that. I’ve known Michael for 10 years so I know we can work together and deliver the best results we can for dairy farmers.

“One of our main roles will be to be there for membership and to help them to make decisions, which might not always be to stay in dairy farming - but it is not a case of deciding whether to stay in or not for everyone. The NFU has a responsibility to help members through the facts and figures of where it is going.”

Mr Rawson, 37, runs a 300-strong herd of cross-bred cattle at Thornhill Hall Farm, Dewsbury, plus another 300 in Market Rasen, Lincolnshire, and he is adamant that the short-term challenges in the industry will be overcome.

“The medium to long-term future for dairy looks bright. The main issue is the Russian trade ban and the Chinese (pulling back from the dairy market), and the removal of quotas, and how that has been handled.”

Asked how the industry should tackle the current oversupply of milk on the market to aid a price rise, he said: “Even if we - UK dairy farmers - cut production it’s a drop in the ocean because it’s still based on a world market. It’s just about protecting your own business and doing what’s right for it.”

The union, and other farming organisations, has held talks with Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss to push for “constructive support options for the sector” ahead of a meeting of the European Commission’s Agriculture Council on Monday.

NFU chief dairy adviser Sian Davies said: “Too many short-term solutions are being thrown around without clear thoughts of the long-term impact. Today is about learning what’s happening in other member states and agreeing where we clearly need the Commission to step in.”

She said the Commission must look at the threshold for intervention volumes so limits are not exceeded during the mid-spring flush, and that the whole intervention system should be reviewed to ensure it reacts quicker in the future. The Commission should not, however, intervene to resolve the oversupply of milk on the market, she said.

“Any discussions on supply management should be between suppliers and their milk purchaser and not at government or European level. This is why we need more talks between these two parties - either through producer groups and producer organisations.

“At national level we need government to support the increased adoption of the voluntary code of contracts between milk suppliers and farmers, to provide further information and financial support in the setting up of producer groups and leading the charge on strengthening the voluntary code on labelling.”

SHOW OF UNITY IN THE CAPITAL

The farming lobby group, Farmers for Action, is holding a march through the streets of London on March 23 to promote why farming is so important to the countryside and wider economy.

Led by South Wales farmer David Handley, the group hopes to attract the support of MPs before the Easter recess.

“The event will also be an opportunity to convey some key messages about the challenges currently being felt by many farmers in all sectors,” FFA said.

Starting from Waterloo Place, the march will take in Trafalgar Square before reaching No 10 Downing Street where a letter which outlines farmers’ concerns will be presented to Prime Minister David Cameron.