Cut in price of milk may cost Staffordshire farmers upto £50k
DAIRY farmers have vowed to take action against a milk price cut they claim could threaten their industry.
Three major milk processors have announced they are slashing the price they give to farmers for milk from August 1.
The cuts could wipe more than £50,000 off the average dairy farm income.
Yesterday, more than 550 people turned out to a public meeting at the Staffordshire County Showground.
Many of them had travelled from around the country, at less than 24 hours' notice, to make their voices known.
And almost all of them indicated they would be prepared to protest at the loss of revenue.
The National Farmers' Union (NFU) is calling for urgent meetings with all retailers and major food companies that buy liquid milk.
Action could include lobbying MPs, protests outside meetings with retailers and meetings with Government ministers.
Speaking at the meeting, Michael Oakes, NFU dairy board chairman for the West Midlands said: "There is very much a feeling these cuts are unjustifiable. A lot of people are asking how they can stay in business. The pig industry doesn't really exist any more in the UK. If they aren't careful, there will be no milk industry."
Robert Wiseman Dairies, owned by Market Drayton-based Müller Dairy, confirmed a 1.7p cut per litre to a producer's farm-gate milk price on Friday.
It follows a similar 2p per litre cut in May.
Other processors, such as Dairy Crest and Arla Foods, have announced similar cuts within the past seven days.
They all blame deterioration in commodity markets and cream prices.
The reduced prices mean the average farmer gets below 25p for a standard litre of milk. It costs more than 30p a litre to produce milk.
Dairy board chairman Mansel Raymond said: "It is about time they woke up and realised we are not going to carry on producing at a loss.
"We are not going to let this industry die. We will fight, we will scream, we will give all the anger we need to give."
Mike Madders, aged 49, who has a herd of 250 dairy cows at Church Farm, in Stafford, said: "The milk price cut will be devastating if it comes in.
"We plan our business and our expenses based on what we believe the milk price is going to be at the beginning of the year. We could be down £80,000."
The meeting was organised at the request of members of Uttoxeter, Abbots Bromley and Burton NFU.
Chairman David Brookes, who runs Lower Loxley Farm, in Uttoxeter, said: "I never under-estimated the way the industry would turn out to a rallying call like this.
"There are some very worried supermarket executives out there that can't continue supplying milk at these bargain prices without justification.
"The value of milk in shops is lower than it has been for many, many generations. If these cuts go through, many farmers will be looking for an exit strategy. We have demonstrated that we aren't going to stand for this. People have shown real passion and they are prepared to take action."