‘DIRECT action by dairy farmers is imminent,’ Farmers for Action leader David Hanley warned yesterday.
He told News Line: ‘This is due to the fact that they are expected to produce milk at at least six pence per litre below the cost of production.
‘We have for some considerable time been telling the purchasers of milk that dairy farmers are facing a dire situation.
‘That is why the threat of direct action has come about.
‘Because no one is listening, no one is taking any notice.
‘We’ve been telling the government for the last two years what the situation is and they’ve failed to address the issue.
‘This is very similar to the (year 2000) fuel protests.
‘People were telling the government then that there was a problem and they didn’t listen – it’s the same with farmers today.
‘We are losing two dairy farmers a week. Ten years ago we had 25,000 dairy farmers in the UK, today we are under 10,000.
‘We’ve just endured two massive price cuts by the four big retailers putting pressure on milk processors.
‘The processors then just send a letter out saying “we are cutting the price of your milk”.
‘Direct action will mean disruption of the milk supply chain almost imminently.’
The National Farmers Union (NFU) strongly condemned the latest round of milk price cuts after three major dairy processors issued notices for reductions on Tuesday.
‘This price slash comes at the expense of the average dairy farmer who is now making a significant loss for every litre they produce’, said NFU dairy board chairman Mansel Raymond.
Facing hundreds of angry dairy farmers at a hastily convened meeting on Wednesday, the NFU pledged to support direct action against the price cuts.
Raymond told 600 farmers who attended the heated emergency dairy meeting at Staffordshire Show Ground, and voted unanimously for direct action, that if they wanted to demonstrate, the NFU would back them.
Several of the audience called for pouring milk away, blockading depots or demonstrating on main roads.
Steve Hough, from Tamworth, a former dairy farmer who has since sold up, said: ‘The industry has proved it will not stand up for itself. It’s time to man up.’
Paul Rowbottom from Staffordshire said action must be taken immediately rather than a ‘softly softly’ approach, adding: ‘They are walking all over us. Why can’t we tip our milk away? We should all stand together.’
The NFU’s Raymond told the meeting: ‘If the processors and retailers agree to talk to us, then to have hundreds of farmers demonstrating outside the gates would give a very strong message.
‘However, if they don’t agree to talk then we will play a very different game, and very quickly.’
NFU vice-president Adam Quinney added: ‘As a union we can’t stop milk coming out of the gates but you could blockade as individuals.’