The Tenant Farmers Association is warning that urgent action is needed to avoid the already alarming decline in the number of dairy farms in the country from significantly worsening.
Speaking at this years Dairy Event and Livestock Show at Stoneleigh Park, the TFA’s National Vice Chairman, Stephen Wyrill said “Whether delivered to the doorstep or purchased at the local shop or supermarket, the daily fresh pinta remains a firm favourite amongst British households. The fact too that British dairy farmers are using welfare friendly techniques and are responsible for managing tens of thousands of acres of beautiful countryside is already recognized by British consumers. My fear is that unless something is done soon we risk seeing this as a thing of the past”.
Last year the amount of farmland designated as a Nitrate Vulnerable Zone (NVZ) increased to 55%. New rules were also brought in to require dairy farmers in that area to have sufficient capacity for five months slurry storage in place by the end of 2011. Most dairy farmers, particularly those in the tenanted sector, currently have significantly less than this requirement.
"The average dairy farmer is looking at an investment of around £50,000 to £60,000 to comply with the new regulations and will be no better off from a having done so. With the low returns already experienced by dairy farmers the TFA is extremely concerned that many, particularly in the tenanted sector, will be forced to give up dairy farming,” said Mr Wyrill.
The Government claims that the new requirements are necessary to meet the conditions set out in the EU Nitrates Directive despite the fact that it is widely held that the Directive is scientifically flawed in attempting to meet its main objective of reducing nitrate leaching from farmland into groundwater, rivers and water courses.
“We have just over two years to sort this problem. We have been calling for the Government to provide essential grant aid to assist farmers in meeting these huge investment costs which will enable them only to mark time. Tenanted dairy holdings are in desperate need of significant investment for modernisation in any case but if the landlords and tenants of those holdings are forced to spend their limited cash on slurry storage capacity there will be nothing left for this essential investment. It is no exaggeration to say that we risk pushing the industry into terminal decline and having then to rely on imports for a greater portion of our milk. We already import around a million litres a day equivalent to the production of between 350 and 400 average dairy farmers in the UK", said Mr Wyrill.
"I cannot see how the Government can believe that exporting our dairy industry overseas is helping us meet the demands for food and environmental security at home” said Mr Wyrill.
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