National Farmers’ Union (NFU) president Minette Batters and national dairy board chairman Michael Oakes led what the NFU said were ‘robust and frank exchanges with government officials on the desperate situation facing dairy farmers.’
They highlighted the need for a multi-pronged approach to avoid instability of the supply of milk to the public in the short term and irreparable damage to the milk supply chain in the long term.
Batters said, “We are absolutely united on the scale and immediacy of the problem. It’s clear we all agree on the need to act now to prevent a catastrophe in rural Britain.”
She said the UK dairy industry faces unprecedented disruption in the short term because it cannot furlough its dairy cows, and its farmers cannot make use of the considerable Treasury support measures like other sectors of the economy.
“The modest interventions we have outlined today will ensure that we continue to supply the country in the short term while maintaining the productive capacity of this most iconic of sectors post-lockdown,” Batters said.
“I know Secretary of State George Eustice understands the dairy industry very well and I look forward to working with him to progress these arguments across Whitehall before the weekend.”
NFU dairy board chairman Michael Oakes said, “We’ve laid down four key asks of government that, if delivered together will avoid the decimation of this critical part of our national infrastructure. Two urgent actions are needed in the short term; a targeted grant scheme for affected famers that is similar to the Retail and Hospitality Grant Scheme, while Defra must convene a ‘Supply and Demand Management’ roundtable under competition law exemptions to maximise the flow of available milk through the supply chain.
“We also need government to act on our proposals to help deliver a national production reduction scheme and engage the EU Commission to access market support measures.”
The NFU said it has been working closely with Defra to develop proposals with minor modifications to existing schemes designed by the Treasury to stabilize business in the wider economy.