Thursday, 26 July 2012

West Briton Column 26 July 2012

Last week, on one of Parliament’s last sitting days before recess, I joined fellow MPs and National Farmers Union Deputy President Meurig Raymond to meet with dairy industry representatives to discuss the recently announced cuts to the price of milk.

The representatives were questioned extensively on these price cuts, the latest in a long line of drops in the price of milk over recent years.

My godfather was a local dairy farmer and for many years I have been very concerned by the impact of falling milk prices on small family farms in Cornwall.

Of course, some farmers who work directly with producers of cheese, cream and ice-cream or sell directly to consumers are not as badly affected. However with the cost of fuel and fodder increasing, and bovine tb spreading, those farmers that have been badly affected by price cuts need help more urgently than ever. What is needed is a sustainable contract system that can cope with changes in the market whilst ensuring that farmers get a fair price for their milk.

Such a system is being developed, with the Government pushing through proposals for a Grocery Code Adjudicator which will require supermarkets to follow best practice when dealing with farmers. The Farming Minister, the Rt Hon Jim Paice MP, has been instrumental in drawing up plans for the Adjudicator and as a farmer himself, continues to do all he can to try and help improve the situation for local farmers.

All of us can also take action to help, by buying our milk from stores which pay the dairy farmers who supply them a dairy price premium, ensuring they will make a profit. Major supermarkets who do this include Waitrose, Marks and Spencer’s and Sainsbury’s. Milk bought from local dairies such as Roddas or Trewithen should enable farmers involved get a fair price.  Consumer power can really make a difference, recent pressure exerted by shoppers making Morrisons and the Cooperative stores rethink their milk contracts.

Another key issue I have been working on concerns the reports that the number of Penzance to Paddington through trains may be reduced in the new Great Western Rail Franchise. Back in December I secured an assurance from the Rail Minister in the House of Commons that that the current level of service on the Penzance to Paddington line would be maintained into the new franchise. I have brought concerns raised by Cornwall Council  that this may not be the case directly to the Minister and have been assured that no final decisions have been taken. I will continue to speak up for Cornwall’s rail services and will do all I can to hold the Minister to her word.

With Parliament now in recess I have the privilege of working from Cornwall this summer. I have already met locally with local Oyster Fishermen and Falmouth business people, and look forward to meeting you at events I  have planned for the coming months. 

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