Firstly let me say that I am married to a farmer's daughter and my in-laws still farm on the Isles of Scilly. They used to be dairy farmers and supplied the whole islands with milk for most of the year. However the quotas put an end to that as my farther in law was pouring milk down the drain while milk was being brought in on the ship.
Whilst I would not claim to be an expert I am very supportive of our local farmers and aware of many of the challenges they face. I have met with a number and will continue to do so in the coming weeks. I have a meeting with the local NFU arranged and recently hosted a dinner with Liz Truss, Secretary of State for DEFRA to meet local farmers.
The issue of milk prices is a major concern that I know is effecting many dairy farmers. I am clear that we need to do all we can to support our farmers and ensure they are paid a fair price that ensures our dairy farms are economically viable. I am a free market Conservative at heart but if there is one area where I would support Government intervention it would be in protecting farmers from the unreasonable behaviour of supermarkets.
As you are probably aware, the Government encouraged farmers and milk processors to agree a Dairy Code of Practice on contracts. Since its launch in 2012, this has helped improve contractual relationships between farmers and milk buyers. However I appreciate milk prices remain problematic for dairy farmers and if elected I would work to ensure the Government does all it can to support the dairy industry.
Whilst there is clearly an immediate crisis that needs to be addressed, and we need to act to ensure we do not lose dairy farms for the future, we also need to work with the agriculture industry to make sure farming of all types has the support it needs to ensure it is sustainable for the long term.
I am also pleased that the Government has urged Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs to be sympathetic when dealing with dairy farmers. Importantly, in the most recent Budget the Chancellor announced that all farmers will be able to average their incomes for tax purposes over five years, which should make a tremendous difference. In addition DairyCo, part of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, has set up a special unit offering financial advice.