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Farm-gate Milk Prices

Volume 498: debated on Thursday 29 October 2009

I have regular discussions with the National Farmers Union, as well as dairy farmers, about this and a range of other issues. I found that the dairy and livestock show in September provided me with a good opportunity to meet dairy farmers and hear first hand about the challenges they are facing.

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer, but I would like to press him a little on the European emergency milk fund, which was mentioned earlier. If the problems that were mentioned are ironed out, would he in principle do something to support dairy farmers here, who are really struggling to survive?

Once the arrangements for the distribution of the €280 million are worked out, we would obviously want to ensure that our dairy farmers are not disadvantaged by the price and the cost of supporting farmers on the continent.

The British herd of dairy cows is down by more than a fifth since 1997, and the number of dairy farms has halved since 2000. Will the Minister explain why dairy farmers should believe that this Government remain committed to UK production?

By virtue, I hope, of our performance and, in particular, of our negotiating stance in Europe, which is about defending the British dairy industry; and by virtue of the contact and connections, and the support and advice that we give, here in the UK. The Dairy Supply Chain Forum, which I chair, is another indication that we are doing what we can to support our industry. Our industry has innovated and it is rationalised; it is in a better position than that of our European counterparts. We hope that it goes from strength to strength, and we will do all we can to support that.