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Stormont: reconvene and legislate on farmgate prices

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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.  

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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!”

William Taylor

56 Cashel Road, Macosquin, Coleraine, BT51 4NU

Tel. 028 703 43419 / 07909744624

Email taylor.w@btconnect.com

 

The full text of both messages will be emailed to anyone who would like to learn more – just ask using the comments mechanism.

 

 

 

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Farmgate price: food producers unite to brief politicians before the May election

The next election to the Northern Ireland Assembly will be held on 5th May 2016 and Northern Ireland Farm Groups – Farmers For Action and Northern Ireland Agricultural Producers – have already begun to lobby all the political parties and Independents in the wake of the report by economist Paul Gosling which makes the case for legislation on farm gate prices by Stormont.

The Gosling Report clearly states the prosperity, jobs and welfare savings that legislation on farmgate prices would create for Northern Ireland.

ffa niapa stormont

John McCallister MLA and farmer (below left), who met a delegation from FFA and NIAPA at Stormont (above) earlier this week. Poor returns at the farm gate is a subject very close to Mr McCallister’s heart.

John McCallister MLAHe was intrigued to see the mechanics of the legislation on farm gate prices and how it would work. A detailed discussion was had by all with Mr McCallister insisting that we keep him posted at every turn. He left to fully digest everything he had received and will consider its place in his manifesto.

Michael Clark, Chairman of NIAPA comments: “The legislation proposal, if enacted after the election, would return Northern Ireland’s family farmers a minimum of the cost of production plus a margin inflation linked for their produce across the staples providing a financial safety net with prosperity for all across Northern Ireland as a net result”.

Contact FFA’s William Taylor

56 Cashel Road, Macosquin, Coleraine, BT51 4NU

Tel. 028 703 43419 / 07909744624 Email taylor.w@btconnect.com

 

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.

FAO food price index‘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?

tfa2 logoThe 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

http://www.tfa.org.uk/tfa-media-release-no-26-dairy-sector-needs-much-improved-levy-board/

“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 Associates header

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!”

The NFU

guy watsonA 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”.

dairy report KCThis 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.

The threat of fracking to the Causeway Coast

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.

william 1 larger

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:

  • BSE,
  • 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.

william 2Worst 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.

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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 taylor.w@btconnect.com

As the polls tighten it’s been a week of charm and threats in the Scottish Referendum campaign

Steve Beauchampé’s Birmingham Press blog, reproduced with permission

“Darling, I know can be dominating, but I promise to give you more space and be less possessive, I can change, we can make things work, we’re a team, better together. Please, please, please just don’t leave me!”

“But woe betide you if you do leave…I’ll ruin you financially, you’ll never work again, I’ll take all of your friends, I’ll make your life hell, I’ll see you in court – and remember I can afford a better lawyer than you!”

The British Establishment can be a thoroughly unpleasant bunch when cornered.

Right now they feel cornered, horrified, terrified, panicking that the sureties of power and control that they have held for several centuries, and which they complacently expected to hold on to after the referendum on Scottish independence, might be less certain than they believed.

So on one hand, and with all the sincerity of Jimmy Savile in a children’s hospital ward, they turn on the charm.

Firstly, the three main English political parties belatedly confirm offers to devolve a limited package of powers to Scotland (even though many Scots have already passed judgment on independence via postal voting).

Prime Minister David Cameron demonstrates his love of Scotland by flying the Scottish Saltire above Downing Street (and urging everyone else to fly it too).

Meanwhile the mainstream parties bring out every political big hitter they can muster (other than toxic Tony) to plead for national unity. Move over Darling indeed!

And pro-Unionist cheerleaders in the media, financial sector and business world threaten the Scots.

Yet at the same time most other arms of government, supported by their pro-Unionist cheerleaders in the media, financial sector and business world rapidly up the ante by threatening the Scots with all manner of grief if they dare to break with Britain; a run on Scottish banks, a financial crisis lasting years, exclusion from NATO, the EU, the Olympics, the introduction of border posts, immediate withdrawal of some parliamentary representation.

Then there’s the ratcheting up of emotional pressure and use of the ‘Blame Scotland’ card, with claims that a Yes vote would downgrade Britain’s status, power and prestige on the world stage, threaten our permanent seat on the UN Security Council, provide a boost to our competitors and – almost treasonably – offend the Queen something rotten.

Destroying the Union, alarming and upsetting the Queen, it’s a campaign of intimidation and shaming that may yet work. Or perhaps it will result in enough Scots thinking, like many who instigate divorce, that they’ve had enough and while sure, things may get tough for a few years, this is a price worth paying for the freedom to determine their own future, make their own mistakes and prove to their ex, and anyone else who doubted them, that they can and will survive.

We’ll soon know, but whilst the three mainstream party leaders head north today to love bomb Scotland, SNP Leader Alex Salmond and his colleagues increasingly play the anti-politics, anti-Westminster elite card so successfully deployed in recent times by UKIP

Whatever the referendum result it seems that significant change to the United Kingdom’s acutely centralised, London-dominated political, economic and cultural structures could follow. I hope so because the British Establishment has had this coming. Keeping everything of national importance in London, siphoning off billions for South East public infrastructure projects, the arts and sport whilst starving other regions of investment by comparison, has helped foster resentment and turned the capital into something increasingly akin to a city-state.

Even the use of terminology such as ‘the regions and ‘the provinces’ insults and patronises us, creating a divisive and superior mentality.

Whichever way Scotland votes on September 18th both Wales and Northern Ireland will seek further devolution, whilst calls for an English parliament will increase. In all of the hoopla caused by the sudden realisation that Scotland and England really might be on the cusp of a divorce, and whilst acknowledging that Whitehall would cede its powers only reluctantly, perhaps the more federal governance structure that Britain so urgently needs may soon be several steps closer.

And a stylistic contrast, in serious, scholarly vein, Steve’s latest book: ‘Pool of Memories – A History of Moseley Road Baths