Upper Bann MP David Simpson will lead a delegation of farmers and dairy processor representatives to meet DEFRA minister Liz Truss in London later today (Wednesday).
The objective of the visiting group is to secure a commitment from the minster to the effect that she will formally request the European Commission to introduce enhanced dairy intervention support measures.
“Our task is not an easy one,” said Mr Simpson.
“We know that the Conservative party is set against the introduction of measures that will add to EU expenditure levels.
“But to simply sit back and let the market take its course is not an option. This approach will only have one result: a significant number of local dairy farming businesses going to the wall.”
Mr Simpson confirmed that he met DEFRA minister of state George Eustice on July 7, at which time the Conservative MP was extremely lukewarm regarding the prospect of seeking enhanced dairy intervention support from Brussels.
“But that was then,” stressed the Upper Bann politician.
“Over the last four weeks we have also seen dairy farmers in England coming under severe financial pressure and this may help change the views of the UK Government when it comes to delivering real support to the dairy farming sector.”
Plan B for the delegation from Northern Ireland, which will include Glanbia UK chief executive Paul Vernon, is to request a package of support measures similar to those introduced by the French government a fortnight ago.
“The reality is that milk producers will accept support of any kind at the present time, such is their predicament,” said Mr Simpson.
Looking ahead, Mr Simpson believes that other regions of the EU will start putting enhanced pressure on the EU Commission to have the current dairy intervention measures reviewed, given that their respective milk industries will come under increasing market pressure.
“My understanding is that EU Farm Commissioner Phil Hogan is to host a dairy summit on September 7, at which the state of Europe’s dairy industry will be reviewed. It is crucially important that he receives the strongest possible message from Northern Ireland regarding the plight of our dairy industry at that time,” said Simpson.