Around 250 farmers attended a meeting in Cookstown on Monday night at which there was overwhelming support for a proposed milk strike.
Represented at the top table under the heading of Northern Ireland Farm Groups were Northern Ireland Agricultural Producers Association Chairman Michael Clarke, Fair Price NI spokesperson Charlie Weir, Holstein UK NI representative John Martin and Farmers For Action NI co-ordinator William Taylor.
Also attending was Chairperson of the Agriculture Committee in Stormont, Linda Dillon, who made it very clear that the farming representatives must come to Stormont with a united front to request the regional discretionary match funding allowed by Brussels and requested by farmers at the meeting to reduce supply in the wake of the EU’s recent dairy and other aid package mainly aimed at dairy farmers. A farmer’s wife herself involved in beef and sheep, Mrs Dillon stated that she needed a flow of information to her office to give her the tools to help the Committee to do their work and put a strong case to the Minister.
Each speaker delivered their presentation on the meeting points which were;
- The current true cost of milk production – how it can be achieved and maintained – each organisation will give their take on the issue.
- A call for forward notification of milk prices three weeks before payment as happens within the rest of the UK;
- The pros and cons of a milk strike
During the meeting dairy farmers were asked if they see themselves producing milk in two years time, if things continue as they are? Three people out of the 250 audience put their hand up that they would still be producing milk.
The next vote requested how many people favour three weeks advance notice of the milk price to be paid for the previous next months’ milk, as is the case in GB? This vote was unanimous!
The final strike vote was then proposed to give the members of the Northern Ireland Farm Groups a mandate to meet the co-op processors purchasing milk in Northern Ireland on a possible strike before Christmas, if they refuse to deliver a market related fair milk price immediately. The vote was unexpectedly unanimous with the exception of three hands.
In a statement released by the Northern Ireland Farm Groups after the meeting, they are appealing for the Ulster Farmers’ Union to join them in a united front, ‘to meet forthwith the Stormont Agriculture Committee, the Agriculture Minister and her team reference match funding for Northern Ireland equivalent to the EU dairy and other aid package already coming to Northern Ireland and to meet forthwith with all co-ops purchasing milk in Northern Ireland on the serious issue of below market farm gate milk prices.’