Speaking this week at the South West Dairy Show in Shepton Mallet, NFU deputy president Minette Batters urged that any future deal with the EU must maintain two-way tariff-free trade in agricultural goods and must avoid costly and disruptive customs checks, processes and procedures.
“Dairy companies have led the way in finding new EU and non-EU markets for their high quality dairy products and we need to ensure that any future trade deals don’t jeopardise the hard work that’s already been carried out,” said Batters.
She also called for more to be done to secure jobs to avoid what some experts have dubbed a dairy labour crisis.
‘Can’t find able staff’
“Dairy farms are closing, not because of milk price, but because they can’t find able staff to take on the roles available,” added Batters.
“If government wants the dairy industry to produce more, consume more and export more, we need an urgent solution to the lack of availability of dairy farm labour – this cannot currently be filled by domestic or migrant workers.”
Batters also called on UK policy makers to consider the needs of the dairy industry in creating the forthcoming Agriculture Bill with a legislative framework that works best for British farmers.
The bill would provide the NFU an opportunity to influence policy makers on what agriculture needs to be competitive, progressive and profitable in the future, she added.
Trust across the supply chain
Dairy also needed improved market transparency in order to build greater trust across the supply chain. Transparency was also necessary for the development of market based risk management tools.
“For this to work, we need mandatory price and volume reporting and better collaboration and trust between dairy farmers, their milk buyers and the wider supply chain,” said Batters.
“The short term future is bright for British dairy farmers. But we need to make sure the policy is right on trade, labour and domestic agricultural policy to ensure that they can also thrive in the medium and long term.”