NFU Cymru will tell The House of Commons Welsh Affairs Committee that dairy farmers must not suffer a repeat of the year of “turmoil” they have endured in 2012, when they meet to discuss the future of dairy farming in Wales tomorrow. Absolutely right – like all UK milk producers they should not, must not and cannot! But, I fear they probably will.
What has really changed in 2012? How many milk producers now feel that the war has been won? Not many, I suspect. I believe that 2012 was just another battle – the only real difference being that we rallied a lot of troops and allies appeared from all corners and we can draw strength from that. However, having won back some territory, we now need to think carefully about how we can redress the imbalance of power that exists between farms and retailers. We should not simply polish our sabres in readiness for another good rattling and return to our day to day business.
Free Range Dairy is beginning to build momentum with new farmers signing up to take the Pasture Promise every day. The job is now very much about winning hearts and minds – not simply appealing for support in the face of oppression. Free Range Dairy is establishing a movement of farmers who believe passionately that they can produce milk of quality and deliver real value for the people of the UK. We will not wait for the next battle to begin – we will engage with those people and explain why our cows and our farms matter to them as much as they do to us.
It is the voices, opinions and values of those celebrities, politicians and members of the public that really won the day for us this time around. But, whilst many farmers, heartened by recent demonstrations of unity, will be willing to do battle again, it is unlikely that our allies will share our commitment to the cause as other issues take priority in their lives. We cannot continually ask them to take up arms and come to our aid. It is essential we make them aware that they can actually help themselves in helping us, every time they buy milk. By selecting milk and dairy products from UK, pasture-based herds, they can be sure of securing a supply of healthy, nutritious food from farms where cows enjoy the life they deserve, our countryside is preserved and everyone profits.
Over the past decade, supermarkets have changed the way people shop and influenced the choices they make – largely based on perception rather than fact. I believe we can win back the value of our milk with co-ordinated campaign of our own. Don’t give up the battles that the NFU and FFA have fought so well. But, join us and combine protest with promotion.