As Andrew Hemming, vice-chairman of Farmers for Action, said today, the WI have been ‘brilliant’, not only during the present action but over the years - see our history page and a cutting from the local press:
In 2007, MP Caroline Spelman presented a NFWI petition signed by 71.000 people which called for a watchdog to ensure that all parties in the food chain receive a fair price. She writes: “With one third of all dairy farmers giving up working in the industry in the last two years and a further third planning to go …it is now up to us to try to get the message across by trying to buy milk closer to the farmgate or check with the supermarkets that they are giving farmers a fair and realistic price for the milk we are buying.” Solihull News 13.4.07
Last week a reader sent this address by Ruth Bond (Chair of the National Federation of Women’s Institutes) which was headed ‘A Fair Deal for Dairy Farmers’. Extracts follow and the whole address may be seen on http://fairdealfooduk.com/?page_id=3716
The WI continues to stand by dairy farmers and has actively done so since 2005 when members voted on a resolution to “urge WI members to do all in their power to raise public awareness of the unfair difference between the retail prices of milk and the price paid to farmers”. The WI’s Great Milk Debates across the country did indeed raise that awareness, and in the years since we have seen some progress with more retailers establishing dedicated relationships with the dairy farmers that supply them with fresh milk.
Yet this progress has not gone far enough. Time and time again, we see the same cycle of farmers losing money on every litre of milk that they produce. This tells me that the supply chain is failing to function properly. All parts of the supply chain stand to benefit from maintaining a profitable, productive and healthy dairy industry, yet as events over the past two weeks have again shown us, the balance is wrong. This problem was an issue the WI took up again in our 2010 Mission Milk campaign with the NFU. Now yet again, we are getting behind our dairy farmers.
It is a very sad truth that dairy farms have been closed across the country in high numbers in recent years: producer numbers for England and Wales stood at 10,724 in May 2012; a fall of 172 or 1.6% over the last 12 months. Since 2000, the number of UK dairy farmers has literally halved. The Derbyshire farmer told me he thought he had about another six months for “things to pick up” before the bank came knocking at his door.
The British public has to get behind these dairy farmers. Their herds produce liquid milk of a quality and hygiene standard higher than in any other country and of course there is a growing demand for British, local, quality, assured and traceable food; for products that consumers can trust and support. With fewer dairy farmers the risk that this will lead to less product choice is very real.
Our farmers are custodians of the countryside who provide work for many more industries such as veterinary practices, animal feeds, engineering and more. And indeed, these industries were also represented at the summit; both in solidarity with the dairy industry but also in fear for their own.