‘Give guaranteed milk price on grounds of food security’

November 16, 2014

 

Milk prices supermarket promotion

SHOWING CONTEMPT: This image shows without any doubt how milk is being used as a loss leader in a major supermarket’s store. Picture by Jo Campion

 

Sir Simon Jenkins

 

BROKEN PROMISES: Simon Jenkins, former chairman of the National Trust, says the Coalition has given up on it’s rural roots. Many Lib Dem and Conservative nailed their colours to the rural community’s mast in the run up to the 2010 General Election.

 

 

Supportive label

SUPPORTING PRODUCT: Not all labelling is necessarily bad. This was found by another farmer. Picture by Jane Charlesworth.

 

FARMERS and conservationists say the Government has betrayed it’s rural voters over its handling of milk prices and food security.

Many dairy farmers seem to be at their wits end and this is why I am posting some of the observations they are putting out on social media, as I did previously earlier in the month.

Environment minister Liz Truss has written to farmers saying that she has no intention of intervening in the dispute between dairy farmers, processors and large retailers.

This is hard to fathom as most of the rural MPs across England are Tories and Liberal Democrats, who are the two parties that formed the Coalition Government back in 2010. They seem to forget regrettably – like Labour – that you can’t have the countryside without the means to deliver it, and may I remind them and the class warriors that mix includes dairy farmers.

She said: “I do not believe it is the role of Government to become involved in the debate about the price of milk, not in setting out the precise details of contracts, which must be freely negotiated between the parties involved.”

Wake up Miss Truss, our food security is at risk from factors beyond your control like the Ebola virus and the Islamic State, who have been revealed to have increased in number. For these reasons alone, it makes it imperative to temporarily intervene in the market and get a guaranteed price, not just walk on by on the other side of the road.

For the record for anyone reading this, east Dorset’s major newspaper was contacted by me about the milk price protests at the Andover Co-op distribution centre, but they said it was unlikely anything could be realistically used because they only covered Poole, Bournemouth and Christchurch.

Heed these words from former National Trust chairman Sir Simon Jenkins in a tabloid newspaper edition of Saturday 16 November.

“The countryside’s lack of muscle and influence remains curious – as does Westminster’s disregard for it. The old primacy of agriculture has collapsed.

“City-dwellers now constitute the majority of voters. They seem careless of important issues such as food security, bird conservation, ash tree die-back and bovine TB, which leads to tens of thousands of cattle being killed a year.

“Perhaps that’s why the 2012 planning changes seriously worried Downing Street only when UKIP came out of them, and against turbine subsidies. It was as if the Tories – traditionally seen as the party of the countryside – had simply given up on its rural roots.”

Supermarkets are ruthlessly pushing down the price as a loss leader and I made clear in my last post on milk prices through Oli Bonell’s picture of milk prices in Tenerife if there is no domestic industry to supply the raw ingredient, ,milk and other dairy products will double in price.

I hope that a lady journalist in Farmer’s Weekly doesn’t mind me using this quote she used from Oscar Wilde, but it reads: “Nowadays people know the price of everything, but the value of nothing.”

Peter Johnson sums up the views of many on line: “Prices down and staying down. Farmers down and going out of business more like. I wonder of this ad will be the same when dairy farming is extinct in the UK and the rest of Europe can charge what the hell they like for milk.”

Former Somerset dairy farmer Dennis Jones, who quit the industry because of the low price he was receiving, says this on Facebook: “There are few that would prefer mega dairies ahead of the more traditional side of milk production but as long as greedy supermarkets continue to underpay dairy farmers for milk we will see more and more of them establish.”

As someone who used to write a daily column on a weekly newspaper in Yeovil, one of the solutions to the public’s ignorance on food production, including dairy farming, has to be laid squarely at the door of education. The reality is field trips and farm visits are not considered a realistic option because of the worries of the hypothetical risk of getting infected or injured.

When one in six children doesn’t know that vegetables are grown on farms and that one in 50 children thought the industry harvested potato waffles, they need to get onto the farms. These figures are courtesy of the British Nutrition Foundation. Another survey remember I recall said a certain number of young people thought cows hibernated.

Get children onto the dairy farms, estates and nature reserves as part of the National Curriculum and just may be it the countryside can be maintained as living heritage, rather than being consigned to a bygone era.

 

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