Somerset

West farmers 'crisis' meeting amid row over NFU

dairy farm Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Milk prices have been affected by an over-supply and drop in demand

Hundreds of west of England farmers have met in Somerset to discuss the continuing "crisis" over milk prices.

The NFU says the number of dairy farmers in the West has fallen by 107 between July 2014 and July 2015. Nationally the figure was 393.

The meeting was told action was needed now to prevent a "crisis in the dairy industry" and "strike action may be the only way to get their voices heard".

The National Farmers' Union (NFU) faced calls to do more for producers.

David Handley, from Farmers for Action, said farmers were all suffering from the same issue.

'Another agenda'

"We are addressing production and we're saying that we can't produce if there's not a market," he said.

"I think you'll see the balance come back in favour of better pricing for farmers but until that happens you've got to look at what we can do in the short term.

"Retailers and the food sector can play a big part in that."

The meeting's host, businessman Derek Mead, said the NFU was not doing enough to stand up for farming.

But the NFU said farmers should "work together" and not do "each other down".

NFU chairman Rob Harrison accused Mr Mead, from the Sedgemoor Auction Centre in Bridgwater where the meeting was held, of having "another agenda" and trying to "drive yet another wedge between farmers working in a sector which has enough problems as it is".

Mr Mead told the BBC all areas of British farming were "on the floor" but dairy farming had "been in crisis for the last 20 years and it's about time it was sorted out".

He wants legislation to address "bad practices" by supermarkets and said the NFU should stop "making excuses for doing nothing".

The NFU, Farmers for Action and Tenant Farmers' Association representatives were at the meeting on Wednesday.

Milk prices have come under pressure from rising supply - thanks to good conditions globally in 2013-14 - and falling demand, particularly from China and as a result of Russia's ban on EU dairy imports.

EU milk production quotas set up in 1984 to stop production outstripping demand also came to an end in April.

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