Member's letter about the dairy crisis

This letter was written by an NFU West Midlands member in response to some recent comments made in an online article about the dairy crisis

I must take issue with your recollection of the 2012 milk protest as reported in your latest news bulletin.

The milk crisis summit held in London on 11th July 2012 was a direct result of a meeting held at the Staffordshire county show ground, organised by the NFU and attended by 600 dairy farmers at less than one days notice on the 4th July.

The NFU is the only farming organisation that could have organised and coordinated this massive logistical exercise, bringing coach loads of dairy farmers from all over the country to meet in central London, along with high profile government, industry and media involvement.

The involvement and support of the TFA, NFU Scotland, NFU Cymru and FFA was essential in the process. To claim that David Handley or any other single organisation led this would be wrong. What was very special about this time was that it was the first time that we were united as an industry, and each participant in the coalition worked hard at what it was good at.

Our local contribution to the protest in 2012 was to build a fighting fund from donations collected from the 150 farmers and industry partners that met at my farm for an emergency meeting the week after the London summit.

We used this to carry out many high profile publicity stunts over the following weeks in the large towns in our county (Uttoxeter, Leek, Hanley, Newcastle, Stoke, Stafford, Cannock). Some of the things we did were giving away free milk simultaneously at multiple sites of the same company (ASDA, Morrisons, COOP, McDonalds), emptying shops of liquid milk (legally by buying it all, Aldi), taking calves shopping, and other activities as well.

If the campaign had gone on for longer we had other imaginative ideas to target Muller and others. All of this was fully supported by the NFU in terms of providing publicity materials at very short notice and getting it to where it was needed, media coordination, communications, top level negotiations, and much good general advice. The FFA led none of this activity in our area.

What they did do was to re-enforce the campaign with direct action in the form of blockades. This was also an important part of the success, but the building up of public support for our industry was an equally (and maybe more) important part of the battle.

I don't normally write these kind of letters but I cannot accept your quips in this weeks bulletin. It seems to me that if somebody wanted to damage the NFU and destroy any sense of unity that we as producers might be able to muster in these difficult times, then you are doing a good job of doing it. I am not saying that everything the NFU does or says is right, but trying to undermine it in a very public way is not helpful.

My own view on the current situation is that there are logical fundamental market reasons why the industry is experiencing low prices and these are widely understood. The NFU dairy team are working hard and with passion to engage with processors and retailers to ensure that they don't abuse their position and that they are fully aware of the risk to their milk supply if these low prices continue.

High profile blockades by the FFA as widely reported on the media, without the concurrent PR campaign as in 2012 risk a public backlash against whingeing farmers, especially when anybody with access to global milk price and production data can see why we are in a completely different situation to 2012.

We may disagree on this issue but I do feel better for having a good moan!

Matthew Weaver, stone, Staffordshire

Last edited on: 14:10:2014

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