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MP backs dairy farmers
2:00pm Monday 27th August 2012 in News
DAIRY processors have “an obligation” to offer farmers a better deal, says Cotswold MP Geoffrey Clifton-Brown.
Mr Clifton-Brown, hitting out at dairy processors, also urged the Government to consider new laws making it illegal for diary firms to offer milk payments below the cost of production.
He said farmers across the area had contacted him to voice their concerns after protests across the country last month.
A national campaign group called Farmers For Action (FFA) blockaded several dairy processing plants, including one in Droitwich, Worcestershire, in a dispute over prices.
Since then the country’s main dairy firms have upped their rates, but Mr Clifton-Brown said it did not go far enough.
“I’ve had lots of meetings with farmers over this and my view is that we ought to get to a situation where it is illegal for dairy processors to offer milk prices below the cost of production,” he said. “Farmers have been exploited for a long time and it really is a huge problem.
“A lot of farmers who offer milk to the processors are stuck because they don’t want to get rid of their animals and want to carry on, but they need fair prices.
“Outlawing any attempts by processors to offer rates below the real production prices would be the best solution.”
Since the protest blockades, Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman has been working on a new Code of Practice on milk between dairy farmers and processors.
The code, which is expected to be ratified this month, is aimed at preventing any large dairy firms making sudden cuts to the rates they pay.
But the National Farmers Union says a large problem with the code is that it is voluntary.
Rob Harrison, chairman of the South West NFU diary board, said: “Anything to stop the abuses of retailers or dairy processors would be a good thing – but we’re sceptical as to whether the code will have the teeth to deliver.”
The processors say a drop in the value of cream across the world has played a large part in the problems, as well as the general economic doldrums.
Farming Minister Jim Paice said: “The Government will continue to work with all parts of the industry to secure its longterm future.”