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EU misses golden opportunity on dairy contracts, says NFU




A golden opportunity has been missed to strengthen dairy contracts across the European Union, according to the NFU.

The European Commission, European Parliament and European Council have today agreed a final text on the EU’s dairy package which aims to create a more sustainable future for the EU’s dairy sector.

But NFU chief dairy advisor Rob Newbery said the text did little more than maintain the status quo.

“The European Commission’s dairy package proposals were meant to safeguard the long-term future of the dairy sector but, with the exception of new powers for producer organisations, today’s agreement does little more than maintain the status quo for our farmers,” said Mr Newbery.

“We have been in intense discussions with the European Commission, the European Parliament and the European Council throughout the dairy package negotiations but disappointingly it seems farmers will not be protected by common contract rules across the European single market.

“We see this as a real missed opportunity by the European institutions to help increase the bargaining power of farmers. However, the package doesn’t close the door on individual Member States choosing to legislate for minimum contract terms and Defra Minister Jim Paice has committed to consult on this matter when the time comes.

“We are also buoyed by the exciting potential for farmers to market their milk collectively through producer organisations which we intend to explore further. Meanwhile, we must re-double our efforts as a dairy industry by working with the dairy processors and Defra to draw up a voluntary code of practice that will give farmers better bargaining power and greater revenue from milk sales. Should this process fail to offer farmers the fairness and transparency in contracts they deserve, we will be pressing Defra to legislate.”

Today’s agreement must still be formally accepted by a vote in the Agriculture Council and European Parliament, with a likely adoption in the New Year.


  • The European Commission set up a High Level Group on Milk in October 2009 to examine the long-term future of the EU dairy sector in view of the abolition of quotas in 2015.
  • In December 2010 Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolo? presented a package of formal legal proposals to amend the single CMO regulation as part of its response to the HLG recommendations.
  • The European Parliament Agriculture Committee appointed Northern Irish MEP Jim Nicholson as rapporteur of the Commission’s report. Today he reached agreement with the Commission and Council on a final text.
  • The agreement must now be formally accepted by a vote in the Agriculture Council and European Parliament, with a likely adoption in the New Year.

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