January 20: Time to back dairy farmers

IT is no consolation to dairy farmers that the current crisis is afflicting their industry has been exacerbated by global factors outside their control, such as the slump in demand in China and Russia opting to ban EU imports. The latter’s significance is considerable – one fifth of the UK’s milk production, 2.5 billion litres for the record, was used to make 250,000 tonnes of cheese which is no longer traded to Russia.

Yet their cause is not helped by ineffective political leadership, the criticism made by Parliament’s Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee which is headed by the North Yorkshire MP Anne McIntosh. While today’s report points to future rises in global demand for dairy products, this will be too late for those farmers already struggling to make ends meet.

They continue to be let down by the failure of the Groceries Code Adjudicator to represent those farmers whose incomes have been squeezed dry by the major supermarkets and processors. It is “extraordinary” that the watchdog has been waiting for more than a year for the “practical ability” to use its legal powers.

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And the plight of farmers is exacerbated by longstanding loopholes in labelling laws which mean dairy products – such as butter and cheese – do not have to conform to the “country of origin” test which was introduced to safeguard the interests of beef producers. Liquid milk can be imported to these shores and processed here into “British” dairy products.

Until this is reconciled – and the upcoming election must not be used as an excuse for delay and dither – it is imperative that consumers look to buy dairy produce which includes the “red tractor” symbol or, in the case of Sainsbury’s, the Union flag. Not only will they be buying British, but they will be offering a financial lifeline to an industry facing its greatest crisis.

A balancing act

The positive case for immigration

IT is a source of regret that some Muslim leaders have questioned the motivation behind the call, from Communities Secretary Eric Pickles, for imams to redouble their efforts to root out extremists and prevent young people from being radicalised.

This was a sincere call from the Keighley-born Cabinet Minister for people from all faiths, and backgrounds, to demonstrate solidarity in the face of the terrorist threat of a tiny minority of extremists intent on using violence to undermine Western values.

Such a negative response propagates the view that Muslim communities are reluctant to integrate with other sections of society. This is a false impression. One of Britain’s greatest strengths is its diversity of people and this was the point being made by Mr Pickles, and also Home Secretary Theresa May with her support for the Jewish community amid fears of a resurgence in anti-Semitism.

Moving forward, Ministers do need to be aware of two additional points. First, they must speed up the deportation of overseas-born offenders – today’s scathing report by Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee plays into the hands of those who believe that the Government does not have a sufficient grip on immigration policy.

Second, the Conservative Party should be heeding the report by the think-tank Bright Blue which appeals to Tories “not to pursue mimicry of Ukip” on race relations. Conservatives, its report stresses, are overwhelmingly positive about the contribution immigrants make, but Ministers need to do far more to highlight this at every opportunity.

Root of problem

Cricket and its fall from grace

IT speaks volumes about the depressing state of cricket, supposedly the gentleman’s game, that players like Yorkshire and England’s Joe Root are advocating the introduction of football-style red and yellow cards to curtail on-field aggression. This would not be needed if players, including the chippy Root, played the sport in the right spirit and embraced the values of sportsmanship which have passed the test of time.

It would be helpful if there were more umpires with the personality of the one and only Harold “Dickie” Bird. He did not need to issue warnings to players, even though his career in the middle coincided with the emergence of many of cricket’s all-time great characters. A quiet word was always sufficient to stop a player speaking out of turn – and this tactic worked because respect for the man in the middle was absolute and could be taken for granted. For, in most regards, the breakdown of this rapport is the root of cricket’s fall from grace.