Dairy farmers are being screwed over, but nobody knows the best way to help

Milk must be making money for somebody. But it's certainly not the farmers who produce it
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I have lived with my husband, a dairy farmer for almost two decades. Farmers often marry within a particular self-selecting community, which can make the gap between how they perceive themselves and how they are seen by other people in the country, quite wide. Maybe the fact that I don’t come from a farming background myself helps me to look at the current position of the dairy industry from a slightly different slant.
Whatever way you look at it. We are in trouble. At the moment, we are getting 18 pence a litre for our milk. This time last year, we were getting 30 pence. It costs at least 24 pence to produce a litre of milk.
I have had umpteen conversations in the past weeks with people who live outside the farming world, and they all want to help. The problem is, they don’t know how to. They don’t know whether they should buy more or less milk or boycott certain shops. They want to do the right thing but they don’t know what that is.Therein lies the problem. This most basic of commodities – milk – has been hijacked, and the politics surrounding it obfuscated to such an extent that every player, from supermarket to processor, can blame someone else. When all else fails, they can blame global economic factors.
Our farm is modest in size, and we do our best to farm in a sustainable way. But sustainability applies to the farmer too, as well as to the land and the livestock, and I don’t think our own situation is sustainable in the coming months.
Every industry has its peculiar factors, but an outstanding feature of the dairy industry is that it has to be a long-term investment. There is no return for about two years, until the cow has produced a calf, and can be milked. By nature, it takes time, and the process is especially unsuited to the level of volatility that has prevailed for several years now.
Not too long ago, our dairy consultant say in our kitchen, and argued with my husband about the need to “put more milk in the tank”, no matter what. In our case, my husband insisted on leaving the calves with their mothers for several weeks. He was told (innumerable times) that this was completely wrong. Get bigger, produce more milk for less input and pare back costs was the mantra – as it was in probably every dairy farm kitchen in the country.
I don’t have to say how hollow that advice now rings when we are being penalised and admonished for producing too much milk. There are a lot of people in suits with spread sheets who may not only have been unable to predict the current depression but who may have contributed to it.
My husband recently met an elderly friend in the supermarket, and not surprisingly (this is the Staffordshire Moorlands), the talk turned to farming. She is of farming stock herself, but she is as bewildered as the rest of us. She told him that she was used to paying £1.40 for four pints of milk, but had recently seen it for as little as 84 pence. Milk is, quite literally, cheaper than water.

However, the use of it as a loss leader is one of the reasons farmers are demonstrating in the way they have been – clearing the fridges of milk, paying for it at the till and giving it away. It is a gesture, less aggressive than some of the tactics used by French farmers but no less symbolic.
In our farming community, everyone has a view of course, and conspiracy theories abound. Someone who works in the dairy industry has told us with “One hundred per cent certainty” that milk is being brought in from Germany at 10 pence a litre to a particular large dairy company in the area. I contacted said dairy company asking where they got their milk and they told me that it came from their 1,000-plus suppliers in the UK. Where is the truth?
As I write this, the future of our dairy farm is bleak. It must be a crazy concept to keep borrowing money to produce something that almost all of us use and which is, somewhere along the line, making money for somebody. But farmers’ lives and homes are so entwined with the production of food that they continue doing it when most serious business people would have thrown the towel in. As a result, they are exploited. How long will it continue?
Source: Telegraph

Mirá También

Así lo expresó Domingo Possetto, secretario de la seccional Rafaela, quien además, afirmó que a los productores «habitualmente los ignoran los gobiernos». Además, reconoció la labor de los empresarios de las firmas locales y aseguró que están «esperanzados» con la negociación entre SanCor y Adecoagro.

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