FARMERS are taking their concerns over the “crisis” in their industry to Brussels, and are calling for action in ten key areas to ease the situation.
Yorkshire members of the National Farmers’ Union will be among a contingent from Britain joining thousands of their European counterparts to protest in the home of the European Union on Monday.
The demonstration will take place outside the EU Agriculture Ministers’ extraordinary meeting where members of the European Commission, including Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan, will discuss the problems faced by farmers in different sectors.
British dairy farmers have been protesting at supermarkets and depots over the low prices paid for liquid milk and for milk used to make cheese, and have won promises of some concessions.
Tesco has promised to pay its processors 29.93 pence per litre (ppl) for the milk that goes into its cheeses for the winter period and has demanded its processors pass this price back to the farmer.
Bradford-based Morrisons has said it will charge a 10p premium on a new line of its liquid milk and 34p premium on a line of its cheddar cheese with more money going back to farmers, and has set a new minimum price of 26ppl to its milk processor.
But the price downturn, fuelled by global oversupply of key commodities, has seen grain and lamb prices tumble too.
On Monday, NFU president Meurig Raymond will tell a UK ministerial delegation why urgent action is needed. He said: “British farmers from all sectors are calling on the UK Government to work with the European Commission to implement ten key measures to enable British farmers to better withstand market volatility.
“We have already seen farmers demonstrating across England and Wales. Farming union presidents, including myself, met Government ministers for talks at a summit in Westminster where Defra recognised that more needed to be done to back British farming during these extremely volatile times.
“Now, farmers need the Secretary of State to strongly stand up for British farming interests in Europe. We need the European Commission to implement measures to ease cash flow difficulties and strengthen safety nets. We need a long term approach in the food supply chain. In dairy this means contracts that allow farmers to plan for the future and lock in a milk price reflective of the cost of production.”
He added: “British shoppers tell us they want to see more British food on the shelves. We urge UK ministers to work alongside their devolved and European colleagues to significantly strengthen country of origin labelling across all food lines.”
NFU member Rosey Dunn, who farms near York and will join the protest in Brussels, said: “There are a number of commodities and areas in the farming world that are causing concern. It’s a perfect storm of price volatility, global oversupply and the situation we find ourselves in with supermarkets.”
A European Commission spokesman said Commissioner Hogan will comment on the various ideas being circulated ahead of Monday’s meeting following the conclusion of the discussions.
Farming’s ten big asks:
Easing of administrative controls to ensure CAP payments are paid from December 1;
Agri-environment payments to be made in early autumn;
Review of EU dairy intervention prices;
New investment to support small and medium sized agricultural enterprises;
Longer-term thinking in the dairy sector;
A task force to explore ways of improving the sheep sector;
Roll out of watchdog bodies to deal with unfair trading practices;
Strengthen country of origin labelling across all food lines;
New approaches to promoting UK produce in new markets;
More investment in research and innovation in farming.