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NFU dairy summit provides fresh food for thought


Dairy farmers from across Britain turned out to support the NFUs second summit dedicated to Improving negotiating power and professionalism of farmer representatives.

Taking place yesterday, Wednesday, in Warwickshire, a distinguished line up of speakers from Government, the fruit, vegetable and sugar sectors, joined the dairy industry to share expertise.  Top of the list were the implications of the EU Commissions dairy package proposals, the role of Producer Organisations and the negotiation tools and tactics open to farmers.

NFU dairy board chairman Mansel Raymond said: Our last summit in 2010 confirmed the tremendous, but sometimes underestimated, power and influence that farmer representatives have. However, that power also brings about a huge amount of responsibility.

There have been a lot of exciting developments since our last meeting not least the European Commissions proposals for changes to milk contracts and producer bargaining power. A legislative proposal, which formally recognises the ability of dairy farmers to negotiate with dairy companies, could lead to a much-strengthened role for farmer representatives, and an even greater responsibility to the farmer suppliers they represent.

The summit was also chosen to launch two new, exciting dairy proposals; a milk price formula by NFU Scotland and plans for a fractionalisation plant, by Farmers for Action chairman, David Handley.

Mr Raymond said: It goes without saying that all dairy farmers need greater clarity, stability and influence over the price they receive for their milk. Given the lobbying efforts of all UK unions for fairer milk prices and contracts the proposal from NFU Scotland for a milk price formula sparks an important and pertinent debate about what any new pricing mechanism could look like.

It also falls within the context of the Commissions Dairy Package which, if adopted in the UK, could require milk contracts to specify a milk price or formula. 

Of course, one size will never fit all and crucially, the proposal for a new formula doesnt seek to undermine any existing price mechanisms. It is another tool in the box for farmers; to empower them to have more say in the price they are paid for their milk.

Looking at the opportunities that lie ahead I believe there is a great future for British dairying. Contracts, new market opportunities, and some really interesting ideas on the table all point to our sector turning a corner. As British dairy farmers we should all hold our heads up high and work together to ensure that dairy farmers and the next generation of dairy farmers get the rightful rewards for their efforts, skills and profession.

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