Category Archives: Food processors

Food security 10: British dairy production at risk

 

Pre-empting qualms about the health impacts of dairy products, from Lancashire dairy farmer Tom Rigby’s retweet we note the findings of professor of food chain nutrition Ian Givens and his colleagues from Reading University, Copenhagen University and Wageningen University in the Netherlands. They analysed 29 studies involving 938,465 participants from around the world undertaken over the last 35 years, including five done in the UK. “No associations were found for total (high-fat/low-fat) dairy and milk with the health outcomes of mortality, CHD or CVD,” they said. In fact, they added, fermented dairy products may potentially slightly lower the risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

A new hazard is being added to the long-term imposition of payments below the cost of production

As dairy farms close, due to unviable prices, the distances between farms is growing and providing a tanker to collect their milk is too expensive. The East Anglian Times reports that Muller has announced that it will close its Chadwell Heath depot in London and no longer collect the milk from 18 dairy farms across Norfolk, Suffolk. Essex and Kent. This follows the closure of two Scottish plants by Muller last year.

The 18 dairy farms who are to have their milk supply contracts cancelled by Muller have been given 12 months from the end of March to find new buyers for their milk at a price that offers them a viable future – one commentator adds gloomily:

“Given current trends it won’t be long before it will be possible to drive from Dover to York without seeing a single dairy cow”.

*

A brief history for visiting readers from other countries (left, Jan-May)

The number of dairy farms across the UK has fallen dramatically since the Milk Marketing Board (MMB) was abolished in I993 by a Conservative government that saw it as “anti-competitive”.  In the period 2013-2016 alone, Business Matters reports that 1022 farms have closed. The MMB was created by an act of Parliament in the 1930s to ensure that all UK dairy farmers were paid the same price for their milk and that they shared milk collection charges regardless of where they farmed. This was to stop dairy farmers being bullied by over-powerful dairy companies who were establishing virtual regional monopolies.

Since the MMB was broken up, farmers have had to negotiate terms with processors individually and this ‘free trade’ has benefitted the milk processing companies and now the average price UK dairy farmers received for their milk last year was lower than it was when the MMB was abolished 24 years ago – and that is the main reason that the number of dairy herds in the UK has collapsed.

 

 

March of the mega-farms? No, says Helen Browning, “we need to pay our farmers a fair price for food”

Almost one in 10 dairy farms across England and Wales – more than 1000 – have closed in the last three years, according to the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB). Their graphic (below) was published on the BBC News website in July.

dairy farm closures 13-16

Up to 30% price cut as inputs cost more

These figures increase fears that the traditional family dairy farm sector is collapsing. There were more than 56,000 dairy farmers working in 1980, but only 14,500 last year. An article in the Guardian reports that in 2016, dairy farmers like Somerset’s dairy farmer James Hole, who supplies milk though a processor to most of the biggest supermarkets, found their milk was worth 30% less than it was this time last year.

Processors prefer to deal with larger producers, avoiding the expense of sending tankers on long journeys to pick up milk from smaller and more remote farms and as dairy farmers on low price contracts increase production in order to increase their income, the. resulting glut on the market has driven prices even lower.

This year’s Kingshay Dairy Costings Focus Report showed the rolling average milk price for Holstein/Friesian milk reducing by 5.7ppl to 24.4ppl with continuing increases in ‘market segmentation’: “The highest 10% paid received 31.3ppl, whereas the lowest 10% averaged 18.7ppl.This gap in the rolling annual price paid has widened to 12.6ppl from 6.9ppl in the year to March 2015,” said Kingshay senior farm services manager Kathryn Rowland.  The report may be downloaded here.

Will production eventually rest with mega farms, warehouse units, currently forming only 2% of dairy farms, compared with as many as 90% in the US? 

factory dairy farm

Or will government intervene to prevent processors from imposing low price contracts on smaller dairy farmers or in future will all cows live in a so-called ‘super dairy’ farms, permanently confined in an industrial-scale building, no longer grazing in fields during the summer months?

Helen Browning, chief executive at the Soil Association, said mega farms were bad for animals and the environment: “Large-scale indoor animal units such as this are common practice in the United States. Experience there has shown that they impact negatively on smaller, family farms, and can have poor environmental and animal health outcomes, as they produce much more manure than the land close by can use, and usually rely on high levels of antibiotics to control disease.

She ends: “The problems facing the pig and dairy industries will not be solved by supersizing production – this fails to deal with the root cause of the issue. It really should not be necessary for a farmer to milk 1,000 cows in order to make a good living. Instead we need to pay our farmers a fair price for food, while expecting the highest standards of care for our environment, animals and health in return.”

 

 

 

Grass-Fed Nation: addressing our diet and carbon emission targets

 

graham harveyGraham Harvey is the agriculture adviser to ‘The Archers’ radio show, on Europe, subsidies and rural life. After studying agriculture at Bangor university, he became a journalist at Farmers Weekly before moving into script writing, joining The Archers in 1984.

Emma Jacobs writes about him in the Financial Times, after the publication of Grass-Fed Nation:

His book argues that animals that graze on grass are far healthier than those fed on chemically enhanced grains. It is also better for the countryside, as well as for consumers of meat and dairy products. Mr Harvey laments that Britain’s traditional small mixed farms have given way to larger intensive ventures, relying on chemicals and cooped-up animals. “Farmers could be doing better than they are,” he says. “There is too much money going to suppliers of chemicals and technology.”

His challenge to overreliance on processed foodstuffs and chemicals followed on a realisation that his own health was suffering from high cholesterol, raised glucose and blood pressure due to the amount of sugar and white flour he was eating.

grassfed nation coverIn the book he writes:

“If we reared grazing animals solely on their natural food, grass, we’d be growing far fewer cereal crops with their heavy requirement for fossil fertilisers and pesticides.

“We would, in fact, far exceed our carbon emission targets.”

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Grass-Fed-Nation-Getting-Back-Deserve/dp/178578076X

The whole article may be read on http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/961dea22-3162-11e6-bda0-04585c31b153.html#ixzz4BxcQZMjS but only on subscription it seems.

 

 

 

Nineteen EU states want a total ban on the use of GM food technology; Arla makes a move in the right direction

.

As discerning Americans are opting for organically grown food and increasing such imports, the Board of Directors of European dairy co-operative Arla have noticed that prices for organic milk continue to hold up well and have now decided to cover the costs of farmer members conversion to GM free feed.

gm free feed

On the other hand, a report issued by America’s National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, a private advisory body, though confirming that there have been no studies into the long-term human health impact of GM food consumption, assert that genetically modified food is safe for human consumption …

The European market is increasingly demanding dairy products from GM free fed cows and customers are willing to pay a price premium. Arla wants to meet this growing demand from the trans-European retailers.

arlaAccording to Chairman Åke Hantoft, Arla already owns the biggest organic milk pool in the world as Swedish farmers have always used GM free feed – so around 20% of Arla’s milk pool already meets this market demand. He wants to attract more farmers who are willing to convert to GM free feed because of the commercial potential – not because Arla’s owners are opposed to GM in principle.

Arla will compensate those farmers who convert to GM free feed and also those who opt for organic conversion:

“Our immediate demand is up to 1bn kg extra milk during the next 12 months and we expect to be able to pay an extra 1 eurocent per kg milk. The market driven compensation will also be paid to all our Swedish farmers, who already use GM free feed. We do not know exactly from when, but we are working fast to unfold the details,” says CEO Peder Tuborgh.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have gone further than this – they want a total ban the growing of GM crops, as do 19 EU states including Germany and France, but the current British government has indicated it is willing to consider allowing, this and meet the needs of already wealthy corporates.

 

 

The family farm: ‘On the eve of destruction’- Farm Groups lobby for prosperity in Northern Ireland

In the period leading up to May’s election, farm groups are asking all parties and independents to add legislation on farm gate prices to their manifesto; this would require a minimum return of the cost of production plus a margin inflation linked across the staples for Northern Ireland farmers, giving a huge welfare saving of more than £280million and more than 20,000 new jobs and prosperity across the province in towns, cities and countryside. If in receipt of a proper return for their produce, farmers buy goods and services from – on average -123 different suppliers on an on-going basis, including 5-10 tonnes of steel per annum, which would make a huge difference to the UK steel industry.

NI Farm Groups have established that this is a devolved matter and further investigations have indicated that it is legal all the way to Brussels and to go to the polls with these proposals would surely be a vote winner for any party or independent, not to mention the prosperity that would follow for Northern Ireland.

FFA and NIAPA started to meet all the political parties and Independents in the wake of the Gosling Report, which makes the case for legislation on farm gate prices by Stormont as soon as possible. In it, Paul Gosling clearly states the prosperity, jobs and welfare savings that legislation on farm gate prices would create for Northern Ireland. The full report, ‘On the eve of destruction’, may be read here.

WT2 TUV meeting(Pictured l-r Michael Clark, chairman NIAPA, Sean McAuley, FFA Steering Committee, Jim Allister MLA & William Taylor, FFA UK NI co-ordinator).

At the first meeting with MLA Jim Allister (Traditional Unionist Voice, TUV), the farm groups put forward their proposals and William Taylor, FFA UK NI co-ordinator, commented: ‘The TUV leader proved to be well informed about just how bad things are down on the farm and is considering his parties support for this proposal very seriously indeed’.

wt declan mcaleer sinnfeinFarmers For Action and Northern Ireland Agricultural Producers Association met a Sinn Fein delegation, including MLA Declan McAleer (left) at Stormont. Sinn Fein, including Minister O’Neill, have been good listeners on this issue for the last two years as it has evolved. They have asked plenty of questions, all of which, to date, have been answered. It would appear from their interest that they are very supportive of the idea, providing they can convince their members that it would work.

No other solutions available

wt william irwin

Northern Ireland Farm Groups, Farmers For Action and Northern Ireland Agricultural Producers Association (NIAPA) representatives met William Irwin MLA and Chair of the Agriculture Committee at Stormont (above) on the issue of Democratic Unionist Party support for legislation on farm gate prices across the staples to be put in place after the election.

William Taylor stated, “William Irwin is a farmer himself, with his son at the coal face and doesn’t need told just how bad things are down on Northern Ireland farms and furthermore, that NI’s young farmers and their families are not going to wear the current situation much longer before changing profession!” By the end of the meeting the conclusion was that there were currently no other solutions available and that the DUP would continue to consider the legislation proposal by the Northern Ireland Farm Groups.

Representatives of Northern Ireland Farm Groups met Harry Cullen, Chair of Northern Ireland Conservative Party and Roger Lomas West Tyrone Conservative representative.

William Taylor said “the meeting was an excellent opportunity to hear the official Conservative position on Northern Ireland including their free vote on Brexit decision by PM David Cameron. Roger Lomas had attended the Northern Ireland Farm Groups packed farm gate price crisis meeting in Cookstown last Autumn alongside many other politicians and was an excellent contributor – no stranger to the proposal for legislation on farm gate prices blue print”.

As he said: “Consumers have protection from supermarkets, why shouldn’t farming families have the same protection from the supermarkets?”

wt conservativesAnimated group: Roger Lomas, NI Conservatives West Tryone, Sean McAuley and William Taylor Farmers For Action and Harry Cullen, Chair of NI Conservative Party.

“Harry Cullen proved to be exceptionally well informed about Northern Ireland politics from a to z and didn’t need told about the consequences of allowing family farmers to continue leaving the industry and the need for legislation on farm gate prices proposal to be explored, nor was he under any illusions about the ability of farmers to make a country wealthy when they are receiving just reward for their labours.”

A fully briefed MP

WT ian paisley meetingThe NI farm Groups met MP Ian Paisley (Democratic Unionist Party) at his Ballymena office. Sean McAuley, FFA Steering Committee Member stated, “We found Mr Paisley fully briefed on the Gosling Report and the non-optional blue print for rural NI, put together by FFA and NIAPA . . . and very aware and deeply concerned about the current farm gate price crisis across the staples. Mr Paisley volunteered his input and help going forward and made it clear his door was open and his help was available, and insisted on being kept informed”.

Meeting representatives of the Social Democratic and Labour Party at Stormont

Northern Ireland Agricultural Producers Association and Farmers For Action NI met SDLP representatives in order to gather further support for legislation on farm gate prices in Northern Ireland. On arrival they had the opportunity to meet with the new SDLP leader Colum Eastwood initially along with Alex Attwood.   After they left the meeting to continue with Stormont business, the meeting continued with a very interested Sean Rogers.

wt sdlpPictured l-r: Fearghal McKinney, Deputy Leader of SDLP, Sean Fitzpatrick, NIAPA, William Taylor, FFA and Sean Rogers, SDLP Agriculture spokesperson.

William Taylor FFA co-ordinator concluded that the SDLP are taking the disastrous financial situation in rural Northern Ireland very seriously indeed. They spent a lot of time asking questions and getting to understand how legislation on farm gate prices in Northern Ireland would work across the staples to return a minimum of the cost of production plus a margin inflation linked to family farmers for their produce. William Taylor and Sean Fitzpatrick are hopeful that SDLP will back the case for legislation on farm gate prices after the election and perhaps make the case for it in the run up to the election, citing the new jobs it would create, the welfare savings and the prospect of increasing prosperity in Northern Ireland.

Members of Northern Ireland Farm Groups met MLA Claire Sugden (Independent) based in Coleraine.

wt 2 claire sugdenClaire has to date been a good friend to NIAPA and FFA’s call for legislation on farm gate prices in Northern Ireland to return a minimum of the cost of production plus a margin inflation linked. She attended our packed public farm gate price crisis meeting with many other politicians in Cookstown last November where she made her fellow MLA’s sit up and take notice by announcing that she was minded to put forward the proposal for legislation in Stormont after the election providing she gets the votes to return to Stormont. This latest meeting with Claire left the members of NI Farm Groups in no doubt of her commitment to this pledge, nor any doubts about her being a very well informed politician.

NIAPA and FFAUK (NI) met UKIP representatives to ask for their support in their manifesto for legislation on farm gate prices.

“As Europe and Northern Ireland farmers descend into poverty there is no good reason why Northern Ireland cannot be first to come up with the solution,” said Sean McAuley. Mr McAuley continued, “We got a good listening ear from UKIP and they asked all the right questions and gave us the impression that legislation on farm gate prices could be on their manifesto especially with its potential for thousands of jobs, welfare savings of close to £300million and prosperity that will follow for Northern Ireland.”

Northern Ireland Farm Groups held a meeting with the Alliance Party’s Agricultural representative Kieran McCarthy.

wt cllr tim morrowKieran is retiring in May and brought along Councillor Tim Morrow whom Alliance hope will succeed him if elected. The Farm Groups were delighted with the interest taken in the legislation on farm gate prices proposal. Michael Clarke, NIAPA Chairman stated, “Tim Morrow is a farmer himself and witnesses every day the punishing financial environment that Northern Ireland farmers are currently trying to operate in.” He continued, “Councillor Morrow asked all the right questions as the project was new to him and was given the best answers available, leaving him plenty to think about and, we hope’ to consider the possibility of putting it in Alliance’s manifesto, backing the push for legislation immediately after the election.”

Vernon Coaker, the Northern Ireland Shadow Secretary of State, meets NI Farm Groups in Belfast.

wt vernon coakerSean McAuley, FFA Steering Committee stated that Mr Coaker showed great interest in both the Gosling Report and the Non-optional blueprint for rural Northern Ireland and therefore the pluses of legislation on farm gate prices for Northern Ireland. Mr Coaker was aware that Jeremy Corbyn has a keen interest in things rural. The Farm Groups painted the picture for Mr Coaker, of how all family farmers across GB as well as Northern Ireland have the potential to return prosperity to the UK should they be receipt of a proper return for their produce, as when farmers have money they purchase goods and services from many suppliers and prosperity ripples outwards.

The meeting concluded, therefore, by demonstrating that Northern Ireland had nothing to lose and everything to gain by putting in place legislation on farmgate prices after the election, in the hope that it could be a shining example of prosperity across Northern Ireland’s towns, cities and countryside alike, then hopefully to be followed by Scotland, Wales, England and Southern Ireland.

*

Approximately 18 months ago Farmers For Action (FFA) and Northern Ireland Agricultural Producers Association (NIAPA) met a representative of each of the four main churches in Northern Ireland, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Church of Ireland, and the Samaritans which proved ‘enlightening’. The farm groups have now decided to invite all Christian denominations directly to a summit meeting to see if they can persuade them to encourage parishioners to vote for the party/parties or independents in their area who will pledge to introduce legislation on farm gate prices immediately after the election.

Contact NI Farm Groups: William Taylor (FFA UK NI co-ordinator), 56 Cashel Road, Macosquin, Coleraine, BT51 4NU, Tel. 028 703 43419 / 07909744624 Email taylor.w@btconnect.com

Injustice to hardworking food producers takes a heavy toll as farmers leave the industry, some commit suicide and many die prematurely

  • Peggy, a capable owner-farmer, died in debt having lived on her savings for many years to subsidise below production market prices for the cows from her disease-free herd.
  • Andrew died in his fifties after actively campaigning long hours for a fair deal in addition to his farm work.
  • fdf derek walkerand now dairy farmer Derek Walker, of Fair Price Farming NI, who was instrumental in helping to organise the milk protests in local supermarkets, to highlight the low prices they are receiving, died earlier this week of a heart attack at the age of 34.

Derek Walker pictured above in the centre, whilst lobbying at Stormont.

A decent government would end the injustice of below production costs: other workers have a living wage, but there is no such security for the average farmer.

Government is failing those who do the most important work in the country, producing food.

Fair trade: Northern Irish, Scottish and now English/Welsh food producers are lobbying politicians.

ffa2 header new

Farmers For Action are holding an ‘all-sector’ march in London on Wednesday 23 March 2016 to represent the farming industry – with pig farmers, horticulturists, dairy farmers and other food producers.

david handley 5Spokesman David Handley says “we are still in conversation with processors and retailers alike and are delivering a very strong message most of what we are having to do in respect of London has been brought about by them and obviously the lack of any leadership from the current government”.

Regular readers will know about the negotiations undertaken by Farmers for Action in Northern Ireland, which include a recent meeting with Jim Allister and other MLAS.

On Thursday, the Scottish Farmer reports, political leaders were speaking – and listening we hope – to farmers and crofters at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh highlighting the importance of farming to the rural economy and to the whole nation.

fdf scots demoA crowd of more than two hundred heard from NFU president Allan Bowie, before being addressed by the Deputy First Minister, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Scottish Conservative leader, Scottish Liberal Democrats leader and Scottish Labour spokesperson. Bowie said:

“The unanimous message given by Scotland’s leading politicians to farmers today is that they recognise that farming matters and that the rural community matters. We want those words to translate into actions and when party manifestos emerge in the next few weeks, issues relevant to farming, food and the rural economy must be front and centre.

“But politicians must also address our dysfunctional supply chain. At a time when Scotland’s food and drink sector is growing in value, returns to the farm gate have fallen two years in a row and are set to fall again. For the farming community standing here today, we want to be part of the Scotland food and drink industry success story but the fact we are continually failing to get a fair margin needs to be addressed.

“The Scottish public want us to keep producing food, supporting local economies and delivering the fantastic landscape that Scotland enjoys. It is now up to Scottish Government to meet its own deadlines on delivering vital support and all political parties to ensure their manifestos will take the Scottish rural economy forward.”

Deputy First Minister John Swinney came out on to the Holyrood courtyard to tell the farmers that he was “acutely aware” of the crisis facing the industry. “This is the right place to express your views. We hear you loud and clear,” he said.

“While we have robust political debate inside the chamber, all political parties agree that food production in this country is an absolute priority,” said Richard Lochhead, minister for rural affairs. “Helping out our food producers in their hour of need, whether that’s because of the issues we’ve had with payments or the weather, or because of low market prices, we have to do what we can to make sure that the skills you represent and the jobs you sustain and the support you give to Scotland is maintained going forward.”

Good words. But many are asking when British people will be able to put fairly traded milk in their Fairtrade coffee after a fairly traded breakfast.