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Once in a lifetime dairy opportunity – Committee Chairman Blog – 11 September

At midnight on the 15 September, the DEFRA consultation on milk contracts will close.

As a dairy farmer who sees their future in milk production, I will be completing this over the weekend and I encourage all Scottish dairy farmers to take the time to respond.



In my role as NFU Scotland milk committee chair, the last few months have been spent promoting this consultation to encourage as many farmers to take part.

But why? What difference will it make?.

Since 2010, I have been involved in milk politics and I seem to have more memories of the lows than I do the highs.

As committee chair back in 2012, NFU Scotland and NFU successfully negotiated the voluntary code of practice (VCoP) on milk contracts which we hoped would mark the beginning of a change of behaviour in our sector but unfortunately the word ‘voluntary’ turned out to be the biggest failure of what was agreed.

Yes, some processors did change behaviours, but many did not.

In the last paragraph of the VCOP it states that, after a review, the UK Government and devolved administration reserve the right and willingness to legislate. The late Alex Ferguson MSP carried out this review making many recommendations which were never acted upon and that’s why this consultation is so important.

To complete the consultation, please go to https://consult.defra.gov.uk/agri-food-chain-directorate/contractual-relationships-in-the-uk-dairy-industry/

For more information on the consultation or on the issue of milk contracts go to https://www.nfus.org.uk/policy/dairy/dairy-contracts.aspx

It may take at least an hour of your time as there are 32 questions to be answered.  Please don’t let this put you off.  And, if your time is short, I would advise of five key questions on which your opinion would be valuable.

  • Question 2 – would you support legislation rather than voluntary measures?
  • Question 5 - should any future legislation introduce a legal obligation to include price calculation/mechanism in a contract?
  • Question 20 - should all parties be able to request changes to terms of the contract, with that change only coming into force if agreed unanimously?
  • Question 24 – should exclusivity clauses in a contract be prohibited? 
  • Question 30 – should the promotion of producer organisations be considered alongside legislation?

I have firm opinions on all of these, but we need you to feed your views to Defra.

Please make time to fill this consultation in this weekend.  It’s so important as UK and Scottish Government will observe how many farmers have taken part.

You may be thinking I have a good contract; you may supply a retailer or belong to a strong co-op.  In which case, comment on the good points as well as what you want for the future.

Regardless of whether your existing contract is good or bad - this is our once in generation opportunity so let’s not waste it.

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