Northern Ireland Farm Groups including Northern Ireland Agricultural Producers Association (NIAPA) and Farmers For Action (FFA) coming together on the issue of legislation on farm gate prices, released the following statement in August:
NI farm gate prices are by far the biggest issue for Northern Ireland farmers and the Northern Ireland economy, only followed by Brexit and the far from solved border issue for Ireland north and south.
Food Corporates and Co-op food processors face relentless farm gate price pressure actions continue to make the case for farm gate price legislation . . . It’s time for Stormont’s politicians to get back to work and prove they value Northern Ireland’s farming families and the top quality home grown food they produce, including their link to Northern Ireland’s prosperity. They must get back into Stormont and start processing the farm gate price legislation bill proposed by NI Farm Groups.
Every day Stormont doesn’t sit to act on this vital issue is costing Northern Ireland approximately £1million per day; this is made up of £280million inflation linked per annum on rural welfare support and jobs, according to the Gosling Report.
Farmers For Action have now issued a message to dairy farmers considering term contracts for a large or small portion of their milk, summarised here:
William Taylor, FFA NI co-ordinator, states that “Across the main news we now find that the large food corporates are seeking to Brexit-proof food prices – roughly translated Brexit-proof their profits – and hold off their competition. How can it be right for dairy farmers or any other farmers to sign contracts that are grossly under the cost of production and not inflation linked, merely to facilitate food corporate profit taking.” He continues:
“Co-ops are going out and taking the business from the large food retailers and food wholesalers on mainly the lowest price basis to eliminate competition, then come back to the farmer for their profit . . . This has to be wrong, in that it will never return sufficient money to the farmer members of any co-op.
“The job of a CEO of a dairy co-op is to employ good salesmen and implement a policy of selling a quality product time after time, build up a reputation for dependability and above all know when the market is saturated and when it is not, as is currently the case, and use this to advantage – always have a selling edge and always look for new outlets . . .
“Above all, in order to earn any credibility from their farmer member-owners, good co-ops should be able to sell milk above the price of bottled water and never be a bargain basement seller”.
Points to remember:
- any contracts being currently touted in Northern Ireland must be checked legally; sign nothing without good legal advice.
- remember, the true cost of production ‘without profit’ repeatedly coming back from Europe’s most efficient producers via European Milk Board is just over 40p/l.
William Taylor concluded, “Consider carefully before you sign your family into possible debt for the sake of food corporate and co-op profits with non-inflation linked under-the-cost-of-production contracts.
Legislation on farmgate prices across the staples is ultimately the answer and we are making progress!”
56 Cashel Road, Macosquin, Coleraine, BT51 4NU
Tel. 028 703 43419 / 07909744624
The full text of both messages will be emailed to anyone who would like to learn more – just ask using the comments mechanism.
Is the government export drive a good approach? Is its levy board, DairyCo, working in the best interests of the food producers compelled to fund it?
The ‘elephant in the room’ very few ever mention: unfair trade prices – though we hear that when the new Shadow Minister for Farming and Food is confirmed in post, one of his/her first tasks will be to look into the urgent need for farmers to get a fair deal for their milk.
‘Collapsing food prices’ were reported in the Telegraph -September, according to the FAO’s Food Price Index, which tracks wholesale prices of key foods. This is bad news for British farmers, many of whom are already being paid near or below production cost, which could force many to increase levels of borrowing this winter – or go out of business.
However, this basic cause of farming problems is ignored by vested interest dominated media and politicians, who point to energy prices, the need to export and global food oversupply – all less important factors than the farmgate price of food, to those producing for the domestic market.
A year after the 2013 dissatisfaction reported in the press, milk producers were asking for their levy money, imposed by law on dairy farmers, which funds almost all of the activities of DairyCo/AHDB, a body set up by government, to be used to provide information and resources to help support their businesses. This call is coming again, from several quarters.
Would AHDB Dairy pass a school-type inspection?
The Tenant Farmers’ Association (TFA) have issued a press release headed “Dairy Sector needs much improved levy board”, challenging the performance of AHDB Dairy (aka DairyCo) asking how it delivers value for money with the £7 million of farmers’ money given each year. This followed a recent meeting in which the TFA commented “if this was a school inspection our findings would be that AHDB Dairy required improvement and in areas was inadequate. We need to see a much improved board as soon as possible.” The full press release is interesting, click on
“The Board must be properly accountable to the dairy farmers who pay it not Government Ministers,” said TFA National Chairman Stephen Wyrill.
A ‘high-profile figure, quota broker and industry commentator’, Ian Potter, wrote that discontent among farmers over DairyCo had been brewing for months. In an Ian Potter Associates e-newsletter, he said emails from levy payers had been “flooding in” complaining about how their money was being spent, adding that all except one had called for “a change of direction and/or much more accountability”. DairyCo, which, Mr Potter recently noted, has received more than £1 million extra as a result of the increase in production, has already had AND SPENT the extra money. He asks: “But on what? Cynics say it spends the money on encouraging more production because that generates more levy money for it…and so on!”
Ian Potter states: “In my opinion we now need a campaign to promote the buying of British dairy products using British milk” – but DairyCo told the Radio 4 Farming Today Programme on the 13th August that it can’t promote British dairy products.
He ends: “I think farmers will want to know exactly why that is. I have heard one Tesco farmer would prefer to give his levy to Tesco if he could to help it promote British milk. That makes sense to me if DairyCo won’t!”
A farmer sent a link to a 2014 Farming Online article criticising the NFU and added the comment: “the NFU support big business too readily”. In it, farmer Guy Watson accused the country’s largest farm union of forming an “unholy alliance” with agrochemical manufacturers, and failing all but a small minority of large farmers, in a blog post and newsletter sent out in November. He said that he was increasingly alienated by the NFU’s ‘self-righteous lobbying for the short term interests of a small number of largescale farmers and their resistance to even the tamest environmental regulation, to public access to land and to any redirection of farming subsidies to encourage younger, smaller scale entrants to the industry’.
A Lancashire dairy farmer writes, “I have just come across this 2014 report, ‘Leading the Way’, among all the Dairyco info I have collected and to me it highlights all that is going wrong in our British Dairy Industry”.
This simplistic ‘Leading the Way’ report – amazingly lacking in substance – is available for download here. It states that an estimated 2.5% annual growth in global demand for dairy products over the next ten years will boost UK dairy production through increased exports and imports substitution.
Farming minister, George Eustice MP, said: There is huge potential for our dairy producers with growing international demand and a global reputation that is second to none. The government wants to support growth in the industry and ensure that we can both displace more imports and expand our exports.”
So as the call for fair trade prices is ignored and food imports – often of questionable quality – rise, government ministers, DairyCo and the NFU advise hardworking farmers to risk placing their ‘commodities’ on the global market so that internet-bound speculators can ‘make a killing’.
Note next week, Northern Ireland food producers and politicians meet
Accomplished farmer-negotiator, William Taylor, sends news of a meeting next week. One politician from each political party, including Independents, has been invited to come along, give their views on beef, cereals, lamb, milk, pigs, potatoes, poultry, vegetables, followed by a question and answer session.
This meeting will concluded with an explanation of the blueprint for Northern Ireland agriculture proposed by the above supporting farm organisations, which if put into legislation by Stormont would return Northern Ireland farmers a minimum of the cost of production plus a margin inflation linked across the staples and turn Northern Ireland from austerity and crisis to prudent prosperity.
William Taylor* sends the news that Farmers For Action UK NI supported Protect Our North Coast in protest on Monday 22nd June outside the headquarters of the new Northern Ireland Causeway Coast and Glens Council offices in Coleraine.
Three Board of Directors of Canadian oil and gas drilling company Connaught Ltd, under the local guise of Rathlin Energy Ltd, including a former Northern Ireland Department of Environment Minister Dermot Nesbitt, had been summoned to a Council Workshop, presentation and question session after which Protect Our North Coast and Farmers For Action UK NI backed up by environmental consultants made their case to a sympathetic Council.
William Taylor, FFA UK NI co-ordinator, commented after the meeting that NI agriculture has been through many crises:
- foot and mouth,
- the dioxin crisis
- and recently horsegate.
He stressed that the last thing needed for the country’s clean and green image is the onslaught of oil and gas exploration leading to fracking and the destruction of picturesque environment with a huge amount of industrial traffic feeding, as much as four 150ft high 24/7 rig sites per sq mile around the North Coast, from Ballycastle to Magillian to Limavady to Garvagh to Ballymoney and drilling threats to Fermanagh and Carrickfergus.
Worst of all, according to local residents of current and previous US drilling/fracking sites are the health problems of air pollution by flaring and other airborne toxic chemicals and the effects on foetus, youngsters and grown-ups that follow. The final nail in the coffin for agriculture would be the huge risk of contaminated water tables, virtually ending the use of farm bore holes in the areas and risk to river health and native species.
In short, Northern Ireland does not need a climate-change-promoting dangerous 20-year pillage by foreign corporates who will cause and leave destruction in their wake for the sake of a dinosaur industry, as renewable energy is Northern Ireland and Europe’s future.
So say Lancastrians, facing Cuadrilla’s application to extract shale gas at Little Plumpton and Roseacre Wood on the Fylde Coast.
*William Taylor: Farmers For Action
56 Cashel Road, Macosquin, Coleraine, BT51 4NU
Tel. 028 703 43419 / 07909744624 Email firstname.lastname@example.org