The NFU has met with colleagues at NFU Scotland, Ulster Farmers Union (UFU) and NFU Cymru to discuss pressing issues facing the dairy industry and to forge a collaborative way forward.
The main items on the agenda were milk contracts, data and the current proposals to reduce ammonia emissions from the dairy sector. It’s clear that there are many challenges ahead, and we as an industry need to work together to develop practical and workable solutions to these.
Speaking after the meeting, Michael Oakes, NFU dairy board chairman said: “We know that Defra will soon consult on regulating milk contracts in the UK. The NFU sees this as an opportunity to set minimum standards in milk contracts to ensure all dairy farmers, regardless of milk buyer and region, are offered a contract with fair terms and conditions.
“I know various milk buyers are commenting that Defra’s plans on contracts are detrimental to the industry. I fail to understand how a public consultation on how we regulate milk contracts in the UK will be detrimental. Change is necessary and the NFU will explain to Defra and the wider industry why this is the case in our response to the consultation.
“To be clear this isn’t about setting the price, or stifling innovation; it’s about a more professional, collaborative relationship between dairy farmers and milk buyers going forward – something we need to ensure the success of the UK dairy industry as we leave the EU.
“Alongside improved milk contract terms we need better dairy market data. This will help develop new, innovative ways of managing market volatility and allow farmers to see clearly what is happening in the UK market in terms of pricing and volume. Government regulating on the collection and auditing of this data will help support AHDB Dairy’s excellent market intelligence team, and allow farmers and milk buyers to develop bespoke solutions to help manage risk within their milk pools and with their customers. It’s good to hear from Defra that data collection is included in the Agricultural Bill, which is due to be published shortly.
“Following on from where regulation is needed and will support dairy farmers, comes regulation that could impact negatively on the sector. Last month Defra published its Clean Air Strategy, asking for responses by the 14 August. We recognise that farming has to play its part in reducing ammonia emissions, but are extremely concerned by the proposals put forward by Defra which include limiting nitrogen fertiliser use, permitting large dairy farms, regulation on dairy housing as well as manure and slurry storage and spreading. All these will be costly to implement and take time to bed in and may not lead to the intended environmental benefit. This is at a time when Government wants to increase agricultural productivity and competitiveness.
“The NFU, having recently collaborated with DairyUK and AHDB Dairy on the Dairy Roadmap – showcasing dairy’s environmental successes over recent years – will work with industry partners in responding to Defra with a strong case for improved support and guidance on how farmers can improve air quality, as well as targeted financial aid where necessary – for example in improving and upgrading slurry storage.”