EMB says future of milk depends on more young farmers

By Jim Cornall

- Last updated on GMT

The EMB General Assembly took place online this year. Pic: EMB
The EMB General Assembly took place online this year. Pic: EMB

Related tags EMB European union Milk European milk board

At its biannual General Assembly, which was a digital event this spring, the long-term survival of European milk production was the main topic for the producers coming together as members of the European Milk Board (EMB).

The fact that only 5% of producers in the EU are below the age of 35 and only 14% are between 35 and 44 years old projects a grim future for the European agricultural sector, the EMB said.

The organization added the trend is further exacerbated by milk producer prices in many countries being well below production costs – in some countries, cost coverage is 50%. The dairy farmers at the assembly were presented with figures from a cost study, which will soon be published, which also shows, according to the EMB, proves that in the eight key milk producing countries it covers, the current income reality does not allow for any future prospects.

The EMB argued that while the milk price has, for all intents and purposes, stagnated, costs for feed and climate change mitigation are increasing.

EMB producers collectively agreed if farms are to survive, a higher percentage of the revenue generated from milk must reach them.

It said cost-covering prices are possible, demonstrated not only by the figures on value creation by dairies, but also by producer-led projects like Fair Milk. Representatives from this project operating in numerous EMB countries shared their success stories at the General Assembly.

EMB vice-president Kjartan Poulsen said, “We are proud of the excellent work done by the Fair Milk representatives in their different countries.”

Another cross-generational challenge already being faced by farmers directly on their farms is the environmental and climate crisis, in the form of issues like (green) fodder shortages due to droughts. However, it is important to ensure that the costs of mitigation actions to deal with these crises are not simply passed on to producers. That being said, there is still a lack of balanced, inclusive approaches on the political level to look at how the costs of such measures would be covered, the EMB said.

EMB president Sieta van Keimpema said, “The European Green Deal and its Farm to Fork Strategy outlines comprehensive measures but it does not talk about how they will be funded. Unfortunately, the situation of farmers is not taken into account in any way.”

Irrespective of age group, EMB members said they need to and want to advocate more vociferously for a holistically future-proof and generationally-fair agricultural sector. They agreed young farmers are the future and the EMB will work more closely with them to ensure cost-covering agricultural prices.

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