Whilst it might appear to the general public that the milk crisis is now close to being resolved after this week’s announcement that Milk Processors and Dairy Farmers have a draft agreement in place. It still puts the price of milk only back to where it was at the start of the crisis which was still dangerously low, leaving Dairy Farmers in a situation where it is costing more to produce a pint of milk than they are being paid.
So it was decided that Nidderdale Agricultural Society would use their connections to help highlight the ongoing plight of the Dairy Farmers not only in North Yorkshire, but across the country. Using a mixture of creativity, humour and the beautiful Yorkshire countryside the idea was to create an image that would capture people’s attention that might not normally take an interest in farming matters.
For those of you that are unaware of the series of events that lead to the current crisis, here are the facts. On June 1st this year milk buyers announced a 2p drop in the price they paid farmers for their milk due to the drop in cream prices which dropped from £1.60 to 85p, they then made another announcement on July the 1st that the price would drop again by 2p on 1st August.
Farmers were already struggling to make ends meet, a litre of milk prior to the price drop was costing 30p to produce yet most farmers were only receiving 29p for it. The figures being thrown around might seem minute to the layman, but a 4p drop to a farm producing 3 million litres a year equates to a £120,000 loss.
On top of this the Farmers feed costs have sky rocketed with soya a protein ingredient of cattle feed rising by 45% since Christmas, wheat another feed has risen by 37.5%. Farmers would not normally be feeding their cows these feeds at this time of year, however the recent weather conditions have meant that cows have had to be kept inside to stop them from destroying the pasture land. So they are now being fed full winter ration and silage which is meant for the winter months.
This means that many farmers will be forced out of business or may not be able to maintain the high standards of hygiene and animal welfare that is now expected if the situation is not resolved quickly and this doesn’t mean a return to June’s prices this means a fair price taking into account the current price escalations.
The number of Dairy Farms in England and Wales has dropped from nearly 17,000 in 2004 to just over 10,000 in 2012. Local Dairy Farmer and Nidderdale Show committee member David Smith remembers his route to Pateley Bridge School from his farm in Hartwith having 17 farms putting milk churns at lane ends for the lorries to collect. Now along the same route there are only 2 dairy farms.
If the younger generations do not see the business as viable they will not want to continue with family businesses and a British tradition will be lost. This is already happening in Nidderdale. So this is why the Nidderdale Agricultural Society felt the need to get involved and help maintain public interest.
The huge number of Dairy Farmers turning out and protesting peacefully is obviously making an impact. They have voted to keep pressure up until they all receive a fair price and are very grateful for all the support they are receiving from the general public, meanwhile everybody can help by boycotting supermarkets that advertise cheap offers on milk.
It is ironic that this crisis comes at the start of the Olympics where the official opening ceremony will be a celebration of Britain’s green and pleasant land, but it comes at a cost, without farmers it wouldn’t be so green and pleasant.