Hundreds of Scotland’s dairy farmers met this week at Lanark Mart to demonstrate their anger and frustration at recent milk price cuts.
The furious producers fear the swingeing cuts will make their businesses untenable.
And the NFU Scotland is calling for these latest cuts to be reinstated immediately and for all parts of the supply chain to commit to creating a sustainable operating environment.
The union said that If the industry cannot agree a fair dairy code of practice, which guarantees farmers a realistic return from the marketplace and power to negotiate their contracts effectively, the UK government should step in and legislate for compulsory and equitable contracts.
NFU Scotland president Nigel Miller said: “There is no mistaking the sense of crisis among milk producers. Recent price cuts have stripped millions of pounds out of dairy farmers’ businesses and created anger, frustration and fear for the future.
“The situation has also created a level of unity within Scotland and the rest of the UK – between farmers and farming unions alike – to break the destructive power of discretionary pricing.
“We are at a crossroads, and our best option is to agree upon the goals which can actually lead to change. This may require legislation from Westminster or Holyrood, or both.
“To that end, the [Lanark] meeting is the start of a coordinated campaign of action, which will also include a meeting with UK agriculture minister Jim Paice and an anticipated 1500 dairy farmers from across the UK.”
NFU Scotland’s milk committee chairman Gary Mitchell said: “The meeting has brought together dairy farmers and NFUS to demonstrate our commitment to a dairy industry which we believe should be the norm: one in which dairy farmers are paid enough to produce the milk, cheese, cream and other consumer staples which we know people want to buy.
“The recent price cuts have demonstrated again just how flawed the dairy supply chain is. Producers now must show solidarity, regardless of whom they sell their milk to and how much they receive for it. Processors and retailers have abused producer fragmentation and now, more than ever, we must unite if we are going to create change for good.
“Milk buyers have the power to set, raise and drop prices at their whim and with impunity. This cannot go on. We must insist that the UK and devolved governments work with us to rid processors and retailers of the ability to set milk prices solely on their own terms.
“Dairy farmers too must consider their options closely and question their buyers about their pricing policy and long-term strategy. This includes a fair contract and producer representation that is genuinely meaningful. If you don’t get a satisfactory answer, then have the courage to speak to another buyer. NFUS is committed to helping all our producers make this change.
“Over the past two years, NFUS has put in a great deal of work to try to create a change and are just as dismayed by the recent cuts as our members are. In the next few days and weeks we are meeting with processors, retailers and politicians to press for the price cuts to be reversed and for a much stronger UK dairy code of practice than the one which is currently on the table.
“We commend all those who have travelled from far and wide to the meeting and those who encouraged their fellow farmers to come along too. If there is any reassurance in the meeting, it is that we are not alone.
“The crowd we’ve had at Lanark Mart, combined with Westminster’s gathering, must send a clear signal to processors, retailers, government and consumers that the fresh pint of milk we take for granted is currently on the endangered species list and could become extinct.”