Farming unions demand ‘clear and urgent action’ on crisis

Dr Alasdair McDonnell MP and Joe Byrne MLA meeting with farmers on the milk crisis.
Dr Alasdair McDonnell MP and Joe Byrne MLA meeting with farmers on the milk crisis.

A seismic change in the way food is sold is essential or there could be dire consequences for the farming industry and rural economy, the UK’s farming unions have said.

Farming leaders have jointly urged Government, retailers and processors, and the European Union not to ignore the warning signs that farming was in a state of emergency.

Following Monday’s meeting in London, the four union Presidents of the NFU, NFU Scotland, NFU Cymru and Ulster Farmers Union together with FFA, TFA, CLA and NFYFC, issued a joint statement asking for action in the following areas:

Government: “We would urge farm ministers across the UK to meet urgently. They need to admit that something has gone fundamentally wrong in the supply chain and take remedial action. In general, voluntary codes are not delivering their intended purpose. Government needs to take action to ensure that contracts to all farmers are longer-term and fairer in apportioning risk and reward. At the moment in many contracts all the risk is put on the farmer with very little of the reward. Government also needs to urgently ensure that rules are put in place regarding labelling so that it is clear and obvious which products are imported and which are British. We are all looking for government to ensure that British products are marketed abroad and that new markets are opened up for our high quality British food.”

Retailers: “Stop devaluing fresh British food like milk purely to get customers through the door. Start demonstrating right now how you are ensuring that ALL the food you are selling comes from a farm which has been paid a fair price.

“The British public has said time and time again that they want British food. Unless farmers’ returns are sustainable and you promote British food and label it properly the future of our supply is at risk. If you can’t demonstrate what you are doing for all food then we look to you to commit to changing.”

European Union: “There is an emergency meeting of the Council of Agriculture Ministers on September 7. We are calling for UK ministers to stand up for British farming at that meeting. In particular ensure that European safety nets are at a proper level and do something to underwrite the short term credit position of vulnerable farmers.”

British public: “Thank you for your support. Please keep asking retailers what they are doing to ensure their farmers receive a fair price and above all keep buying British.”

Farmers: “We know that many of you are going through desperate times and we are working on your behalf. Keep being visible. Keep the British public on our side.

“It’s time to Back British Farming and the farming unions are looking to Government and retailers to take action now.

“Until they do, farmers will be making their presence felt, where they feel there is unfairness in the supply chain locally, nationally and in Europe from now and including September 7.”