I read a headline on the Farmers Weekly website this morning saying “Dairies must pay more to secure supplies” – a headline that has been repeated in the farming press for years, a headline that is true and one that I fully support. But, why, despite all the protests, the public support, the fears over food safety and security of supplies, are dairy farmers still clinging on by their finger nails?

I am sure that Nick Holt-Martyn of The Dairy Group is absolutely right when he says dairy processors need to pay at least 35p to secure milk supplies this summer. But, quite frankly, I am sick to death of seeing this kind of headline year after year! Why are farmers locked into a cycle of having to plead for just enough to allow them to stay in business, every six months?

When Coca Cola is sold nobody agrees a minimum price to simply cover costs of production. If bottled water was priced according to the costs of production surely it would be cheaper than milk? My understanding is that these products are sold for the price that the market is willing to pay. So, why not the same for milk? Unfortunately, milk and dairy products are key components of the weekly shopping, in the majority of households and, as such, the retailers play with them to win greater market share and generate higher profits.

Some people limit their intake of dairy because of intolerance or perceptions of fatty foods. But, would the vast majority, who recognise the value of milk as an important component of a healthy diet, turn away from it if the price went up? I don’t think so. But, let’s remember we don’t need consumers to pay more for milk, cheese, or butter – we just need a fair share of the retail price that supermarkets charge.

Of the 15,000 or so dairy farms left, it is undeniable that some are failing due to inefficiency and poor management and nobody is claiming the world owes us a living. But it is time that we all woke up to the fact that we are going to lose a really valuable supply of food for our nation in a few years’ time, unless people start paying dairy farmers a price that reflects what their milk is worth rather than some clever calculation of what it costs to produce plus a bit to feed and clothe their kids.

That is why I persevere with Free Range Dairy. Not because I’m going to lose my job if we don’t get a better milk price, not because I like living and working in the countryside, but because people are playing with our food and making fools of us all.

I want everyone to wake up to the following Free Range Dairy messages:

  • We produce healthy milk from grass.
  • Our cows enjoy the freedom to graze.
  • We work with nature rather than against it.
  • Pasture-based dairy farming is both economic and sustainable.

I urge everyone to WAKE UP TO MILK! Because it will be too late to do anything about it when Britain’s cows are gone.

 

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