Many dairy farmers will feel in need of charity after the suffering they have endured this summer. But, I am not suggesting we set up an appeal to raise money for beleaguered producers, Free Range Dairy is about winning public support through the milk we produce.
I am currently looking at how we formally register Free Range Dairy as an organisation. One of the key attractions of achieving charitable status is that it would enable us to receive funding from a number of donors who are keen to support our way of farming. Did you know that the Soil Association is a charity? They receive funding from the Lottery and other statutory sources, charitable trusts and foundations, companies and individual supporters.
The key to achieving charitable status is that an organisation must demonstrate that its purposes are exclusively charitable and for the public benefit. So, how might Free Range Dairy achieve this? Well, again referring to the Soil Association, the promotion of sustainable agriculture, improved animal welfare, human health and education are the kind of things that can qualify for charitable status. Free Range Dairy is very much about promoting these values and delivering a benefit to our society. However, this would mean that Free Range Dairy could carry out certification of free range producers, but could not sell milk itself. The marketing of milk would be carried out by a group (or groups) of producers, perhaps in the form of the Producer Organisations (PO) we have recently heard much about.
Increasing costs will be incurred in promoting the benefits of free range milk production as we move forward and it is vital that we explore opportunities to secure funding from as many different sources as possible. As I have explained before, Free Range Dairy is not simply about pursuing a quick premium for our milk, it is about delivering real value for cows, consumers and farmers. We need to work together to educate the public and one another about the benefits of grazing our cows and the system we follow. The active involvement of those who subscribe to Free Range Dairy is a vital component of its future success – please give generously and tell me what you think.