Tag Archives: Farmers for Action

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.

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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

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Producing enough home-grown food is an essential component of our national security

1 dgc 4 marchThe Telegraph reported that on Wednesday, more than 1,000 farmers travelled to London to urge the Government to do more to help. Coachloads of protesters arrived in Westminster to take part in a march organised by campaign group Farmers for Action. The organisation says it wants the Prime Minister, David Cameron, to recognise that there is “a major problem” in one of Britain’s oldest industries.

“We can produce the best food you can buy. But we have to be able to make a profit.  Currently that is not the case”.

David Handley, a dairy farmer in Monmouth South Wales who organised the protest, said: “We keep getting soundbites from ministers, saying they’re listening and have a 25-year strategy plan. But the majority of farmers here today want to know how they will get through the next 12 months. Falling prices across the industry are making production unsustainable. People cannot take this any longer”.

1 dgc head 2See the video, fronted by BBC Midlands Today news correspondent David Gregory-Kumar (left)

Low wholesale prices for goods including milk and cereal have caused income to plummet for many farmers across the UK. Growing competition from global markets and increasingly fierce supermarket price wars have intensified the problems.

In The Times, David Handley (Farmers for Action, below right) stressed that all sectors of the farming industry are under severe financial pressure – many are not even covering their costs of production – and that this cannot be allowed to continue:

“The government shows no appetite to sort this out, merely issuing the occasional soundbite. When an industry gets in such a crisis we feel our government should lead from the front. We are not looking for handouts, but we need some answers.

david handley 5 (2)“Do they want us to work in a free market, which is not operating a level playing field and the weakest producers keep going to the wall? Or do they really want British farmers to feed British people and also sell our products on the global stage – which would boost the productivity of our industry and also increase funds to the Treasury?

“If the answer is that we are to work in a free market, with no protection whatsoever from importation of products which do not meet our standards, then Mr Cameron has a moral obligation to tell the industry that this is the path he wishes to take and therefore farmers will be able to make a decision about their futures.

“If the answer is that he wants British farmers to feed British people, then he has to answer a number of questions:

  • – Is he going to provide a level playing field?
  • – Is he going to give all the tools necessary to play on the global stage?

If the answers are yes to the above, he has an obligation to step forward with a strategy that clearly tells British farmers it will be profitable for them”.

In a comment on this article, Phillip Cozens summarised:

The government presides over a situation in which last year we imported 70% of the food consumed in the UK. This is utter madness, strategically, environmentally, economically. Support for indigenous food production, with the realistic potential to be self sufficient, if the need arises, should again be a national priority. This is probably more important for our security than having a nuclear deterrent.

 

 

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.

 

Farmers march to ask government if they want farming to continue in Britain

ffa2 header new

Farmers For Action are holding a march in London on Wednesday 23 March 2016 to represent all sectors of the farming industry – pig farmers, horticulturists, dairy farmers and other food producers.

They will appeal to Government to back British agriculture. “We’re not going there asking for money,” said David Handley FFA). What we want is for Government to decide if they want farming to exist in the UK or if they just want food from anywhere in the world.

“We’re importing vast quantities of produce into this country which could easily be grown by UK farmers.”

As this is the last sitting of parliament and also the last Prime Minister’s Questions before the Easter recess, MPs will be in London and – hopefully – support this event.

This will be billed as a “celebration of farming” and they are keen that the event promotes, to the general public, why farming is so important to the countryside and the wider economy. The event will also be an opportunity to convey some key messages about the challenges currently being felt by many farmers in all sectors.

The march will assemble at Waterloo Place, SW1 at 11.00 am, and then make its way to Trafalgar Square where there will be media and press calls, and where food producers can talk to the general public and hand out various marketing material including Red Tractor, etc.

They will then continue straight down Whitehall to Downing Street where a small delegation will be given access to No 10 Downing Street to present a letter to Rt Hon David Cameron outlining their concerns for their industry and the failure of his Ministers to represent farming interests and the lack of power given to the Grocery Code Adjudicator, amongst other issues.

All sectors of the farming community are urged to come and join FFA on 23 March 2016 in a show of unity, sending a very strong message to the government that they will not allow their great industry, which is the backbone of the UK, to go down the same route as the coal and steel industry.

On www.farmersforaction.org, and Facebook Farmers4Action, there is information about coaches that are being provided for transport to the capital from various parts of the country.

For further details contact FFA on 01291 690224/07710 640567 or e mail secretary@farmersforaction.org

Farmers in Northern Ireland combine effectively across sectors

In Northern Ireland, farmers in all sectors are combining, commissioning fact-finding research, and entering effectively into dialogue with Stormont, before forthcoming elections.

utv logoUTV reports that these farming campaign groups asked economist Paul Gosling to study the financial crisis facing the local agriculture sector.

paul goslingHis research found that incomes from dairy farming in the UK fell by 5% during 2014, pig farm incomes dropped by almost a quarter, and poultry farms by almost a fifth. Northern Ireland farm incomes in general fell 17% during the same period – figures don’t add up for a sustainable future for the sector.

Mr Gosling summed up the situation: “The main finding is that the farming industry is in crisis. You have so many farmers that are unable to make ends meet, real poverty in many farming families and as a result of that far fewer people who are able to run farms in the foreseeable future. It’s just not a sustainable industry as it’s currently operating.”

A law to make sure they get paid enough to cover their production costs

Farmers want Stormont to bring in a law to make sure they get paid enough to cover their production costs, something which they said isn’t happening now. But such legislation is likely to face opposition from the EU as it would give Northern Ireland farmers an advantage.

wt goslingThe report claimed that up to 10,000 jobs could be directly created in agriculture if Stormont ensures farmers are paid enough to cover production costs. With an election in the coming months, they are calling for politicians to take urgent action to protect the sector.

William Taylor from Farmers For Action said: “It’s not just about milk, right across the market they’re not getting the price of production and farmers are going out of business. In the future I could see farming going to the wall.”

Read the Gosling report here: http://www.paulgosling.net/2016/01/on-the-eve-of-destruction-a-report-on-northern-irelands-farming-sector/

 

Strength in unity for Northern Ireland farmers: England, Wales and Scotland please note

WT planning

Earlier we reported that Farmers For Action and Northern Ireland Agricultural Producers Association (above, planning) had invited one politician from each political party, including Independents, to give their views on beef, cereals, lamb, milk, pigs, potatoes, poultry, vegetables, followed by a question and answer session. Farmer-diplomat William Taylor (FFA-NI) sends this press release.

Legislation on Farm Gate Prices

At the end of October Northern Ireland Farm Groups Farmers For Action and Northern Ireland Agricultural Producers Association came together to host a meeting in Cookstown.

ffa mtg audience

Over 200 farmers attended to have their say with Northern Ireland’s politicians from all parties, including independents, in the run up to the May 2016 local election.

The meeting heard the politicians give their views on agriculture, the EU and legislation on farm gate prices which would ensure farmers in NI a minimum of the cost of production plus a margin inflation linked across the staples.

The question and answer part was lively and delivered to the politicians the scale of the current farm gate price crisis in Northern Ireland across the board and the meeting concluded with 2 votes:

  • the first, staying in the EU which was 60%/40% to leave.
  • the second was do NI farmers support legislation on farm gate prices to stem the food corporate relentless pillage at the farm gate. The vote returned an overwhelming majority – yes vote!

The Tyrone Courier‘s detailed account gave the names of some of the politicians, including Mid-Ulster UUP MLA Sandra Overend; Roger Lomas for NI Conservatives; Independent MLA Claire Sugden from the East Londonderry constituency; East Antrim Sinn Fein MLA Oliver McMullan; the SDLP’s agriculture and rural development spokesman Joe Byrne and Alan Love of UKIP. There was no-one in attendance from the DUP. The press release ends:

NIAPA and FFA would like to extend their sincere thanks for the support of the politicians – a variety of the province’s politicians who came and blew the cobwebs off Northern Ireland politics and the great turn out of over 200 farmers who came to find out why it will be so important to vote in May 2016 for legislation on farm gate prices.

William Taylor, 56 Cashew Road, Macaque, Colerain, BT51 4NU, Tel. 028 703 43419 / 07909744624 Email taylor.w@btconnect.com

On-farm storage and regional processing enabling food producers to get a fair return?

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bunge logoNew-York based Bunge’s global agribusiness sector is suffering as farmers in North and South America, dissatisfied with falling commodity prices, are holding on to their crops rather than selling them to processors.

This year’s global grain crop was expected to boost future returns for agricultural traders and processors but plunging grain prices led to ‘weak selling’ by North and South American farmers. Brazilian farmers have sold just 10% of the country’s new soybean crop, compared with the usual 30% by this point in the year. Cargill also noted “limited farmer selling in some countries” when it reported lower profits  this month.

There are regular ‘stand-offs’ between farmers trying to maximise revenues and merchants seeking the cheapest price in commodity markets, but the quarter ended September 30 saw some of the slowest farmer selling in recent memory in South America, according to Bunge, reporting profits below expectations.

Farmers ‘hoard’ – wealthy traders ‘corner’

on farm grain storage

Resistance is stigmatised as ‘hoarding’ by traders. Agrimoney reports one as saying: “Any drift by the (re-elected President Dilma Rousseff) to the failed leftist policies pursued by Argentina, that encourage farmer holding of beans as currency hedge, will raise concerns.”

The Wall Street Journal sheds light on the American development: “U.S. on-farm storage capacity has increased. This trend has dented revenues for the commodity-trading companies that buy grain from farmer cooperatives and grain elevators, processing crops into oils and feed or selling them to food companies and governments around the world”.

Is it too late for British farmers to increase storage, or – in the case of perishable products – process?

In 2011, the Grocer reported a plan by Farmers for Action to build a milk processing plant to convert milk to powder, taking about 30% of liquid milk out of the market & generating more money for dairy farmers. Other wholesome processing options would be cream, butter, yoghurt, ice cream and cheese.

Increased storage or processing could bring a just return to food producers and ensure the future of food production in countries where producers are unfairly treated. If large investors shy away, crowd-funding might succeed.

Sources include:

http://www.agrimoney.com/news/bunge-fans-fears-of-brazil-farmers-hoarding-crops–7660.html
http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/e265e864-6051-11e4-833b-00144feabdc0.html#ixzz3Hn9tcozh
http://www.bunge.com
http://www.thegrocer.co.uk/fmcg/farmers-in-switch-from-milk-protest-to-milk-powder/216603.article
http://online.wsj.com/articles/bunge-agribusiness-sales-fall-8-2-1414668126