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Farm Groups seek legislation: the AHDB quango should note their proposal

At the moment, due to imports, this country’s food security ratios are high – see map:

But 28,000 farms in England went out of business (132,400 in 2005 to 104,200 in 2015, DEFRA), many due to farmgate prices below production costs.

Meanwhile the AHDB advisers inflicted on them thrive, advertising for Sector Strategy Directors to be paid £62,000 – £76,000 for working 35hrs per week

The farmer drawing attention to this – who works far longer than 35 hours for far less return – comments “How easy it is to spend someone else’s hard earned income. An independent organisation (independent of both commercial industry and of Government)??”

A government website explains that the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board is a non-departmental public body funded by a compulsory levy on British farmers. growers and others in the supply chain.




It “has a role in the processes of national government and operates to a greater or lesser extent at arm’s length from ministers”.

AHDB advisers working half the hours at more than double the average farming income frequently offer sage advice: their mantra: “improve productivity”. The FT quotes reflections by Phil Bicknell, market intelligence director at the AHDB who sees only three options:

  • The most desirable: securing a free-trade deal with the EU,
  • The least: putting up protectionist barriers or
  • opening up trade to low-cost competition from around the world.

Notably absent is any sustained concern about a fair price deal for food producers and the prudence of supplying the home market first before trading any surplus.

Between 2013 and 2015, according to figures from the House of Commons library, smaller producers left the industry and during that period, milk prices fell by about 30%. 

The Gosling Report finds that for farmers in Northern Ireland the sale price for the majority of commodities they produce does not even cover the input costs; this applies equally to most other British farmers. Paul Gosling comments:

“Meanwhile, large processors, large corporate food wholesalers and corporate retailers continue to maintain their enormous unsustainable profits”.

Farmers in the rest of Britain in the same position should act with those in Northern Ireland. They require legislation similar to that submitted by Fairness for Farmers in Europe (an association of 30 farm organisations in Britain, Ireland and the EU) to the 2010/11 CAP review. This would state that farmers must be paid a minimum of the cost of production plus a margin inflation linked for their produce; if the ‘free’ market moves up the farmer will get the benefit, however, when it falls the legislation is there to provide the safety net limit of drop.

AHDB please note: as a matter of urgency with Brexit negotiations under way, all farm groups could campaign for legislation on just farmgate prices, stating that a minimum of the cost of production plus a margin inflation linked must be paid at the farmgate for all food produced in Britain.

Readers wishing to know more about NI Farms Groups’ campaign should contact:

William Taylor

56 Cashel Road, Macosquin, Coleraine, BT51 4NU

Tel. 028 703 43419 / 07909744624 






Politicians and quangos should take a long-term approach to Britain’s rural economy

A dairy farmer writes:

Kathleen Calvert3Having to keep up with “the daytime job” like many other dairy farmers’ wives I have little time to spend questioning the dairy industry’s establishment organisations, living off our backs, who are ruining British dairy farming and having a damaging knock on effect on allied trades and the British rural economy.

As we dairy farmers are constantly hammered to examine every cost to our business to ensure our pittance of a return is well spent, I question the activities of organisations like DairyCo and AHDB who are supposedly working for our benefit.

dairycoThis is the latest of an ongoing series of questions I have put to DairyCo over the past two years over how they choose to spend our hard earned money, prompted by attached documents.

While some of the services DairyCo offer may be helpful, this organisation, as part of AHDB, grows and grows and smooths the path for the establishment that drags us down. The growing army of quangos imposes a myriad of indirect costs on British Dairy Farming that are not also placed on our foreign competitors.

These send dairy produce here to supply our retailers and manufacturers – including the holier-than-thou who have small dedicated groups of suppliers so they can be seen to be doing right. This  unregulated foreign produce is passed off to unsuspecting consumers as “British” because of poor labelling – and we daft dairy farmers let them get away with it!

new red tractor logoThe significant British label that consumers identify as “British” is the Red Tractor. What exactly does the Red Tractor mean to the consumer though, produced in Britain or produced to British standards?

Why not just have an honest “produced and packed in Britain” label and promote “Real British Dairy” through an honest independent scheme where retailers and manufacturers who use it to sell their produce are obliged to pay a fair amount to be returned to producers for the use and privilege of the PR it brings, against the cost to the dairy farmer of complying with the scheme requirements.

Retailers and manufacturers who didn’t show the Real British Dairy logo on their Dairy produce would then be open to supplying “at your own risk” food of unspecified origin that ought to be subject to more inspection at point of sale by statutory authorities, who at present constantly hammer British producers with unnecessary inspections, rules and regulations imposed by quangos and those who make a good living from the produce of someone else’s effort.

Did you know that processors are charged serious dosh for use of the Red Tractor logo which they are obliged to pay if they wish to be BRC (British Retail Consortium) accredited? Hence another steady drip of income disappears from the supply chain before it reaches producers.

Yet it is the BRC members who gain financially from the PR, not the dairy farmers who have to compete with all the foreign imports that are not labelled yet sold by the same BRC members. Two further questions:

  • Who are DairyCo to give their blessing to a self formed quango (DairyPro) who are set to add further indirect costs and standards to British Dairy production? And why have DairyCo chosen to award Dairy Pro funding for 3 years to establish and promote their private business using compulsory levy funds?
  • Who are DairyCo to hold unminuted meetings eg to discuss regional and national milk production forecasts for the 2012/2013 milk year with (in DairyCo’s words), an “invitee list comprising of milk buyers and milk trading companies, the NFU and dairy industry consultants” The latter being unspecified.

dairyco 2013 conference venue

The DairyCo 2013 Outlook conference was held in a luxurious venue in a prime Westminster city location at a time when most non aligned levy paying dairy farmers face massive increases in production costs, while their income is decided according to what best suits others in the supply chain, while competing financially against foreign imports on one hand and averages derived from figures produced by consultants with conflicting interests from cherry picked producers.

Somebody clearly needs to do something to challenge the status quo and any help and support from the farming press, farmers and allied trades would be appreciated.

If we cannot change things now we may never get a better opportunity and if we just sit back and let it happen like many do, if we don’t stick up for British Dairy farming, who else will?

Contrary to what we are always told, one of our greatest strengths lies in the fact that farmers do not stick together, hence as hard as the establishment tries, as individuals we are less easy to manipulate yet are willing to come together as in the dairy coalition for the good of the common cause.