02-12-2013 15:25 PM | Dairy, News

Union meets dairy farmers in Campbeltown and Bute



Union meets dairy farmers in Campbeltown and Bute
The issues affecting dairy farmers in more remote areas of Argyll and Bute have been at the forefront of discussions this week.

NFU Scotland met with farmers in Campbeltown and Bute on Thursday 28 November to discuss how the current climate is affecting them, how they can collaboratively take the dairy sector in their area forward, as well as wider issues like land tenancy.

Milk board chairman Gary Mitchell and George Jamieson, policy director for dairy at NFU Scotland, met with some of the dairy contingent to hear concerns, as well as to update them on the work NFU Scotland has been doing recently.

There was a good attendance at both meetings with enthusiasm to move the sector forward.


Topics discussed included the CAP Reform, voluntary code of practice and dairy strategy review.

Beyond that the visits were about encouraging farmers to look to the future and what they can do collaboratively, including increasing production through efficiency and supply chain working together.

On Bute the main issues centralised around land tenancy issues. Bute Estates, which owns the land, and the farmers who are the tenants, have initiated discussions and NFU Scotland is keen to help develop initiatives, such as hopes whole farm reviews and develop technical and business advisory services to create future strategies to direct the way forward for the agriculture industry on the island.

NFU Scotland branch secretary Ewan Warnock has been on hand to facilitate the meetings between Bute Estates and the farmers.

With dairy farmers from Bute and Campbeltown making up five per cent of the Scottish producers, NFU Scotland was keen to meet with as many farmers as possible. Both groups of farmers were motivated and enthusiastic and keen to make progress.

This was part of a tour to the more remote areas of Scotland, which has included Orkney in recent weeks to look at the challenges facing the dairy sector and to try to mitigate problems faced by these areas.

Gary Mitchell, NFU Scotland’s milk chairman said: “We have been very pleased with the turnout at our meetings in both Kintyre and Bute. We wanted to visit these areas as we have concerns about the critical mass. In particular with Bute there are tenancy issues as well as issues surrounding investment and the confidence going forward as a sector as a whole.

“This visit has changed my whole perception of this market. Although the farmers feel like they are at a disadvantage at the moment, with restricted links to the mainland, they can just as much get things to go in their favour. The farmers are keen to develop their unique products, like Mull of Kintyre cheese. Bute’s farmers have ambitions to make something of their products - they have got a real opportunity. Bute Estates can work with the farmers to make Bute stand out on the map.

“The dairy, beef and sheep sectors are now looking to join together and form a group and look at how to improve the efficiency for farms on the island, for example initiating a whole farm review to take this industry forward.

“From a dairy point of view stabilising production on the island and looking at opportunity to expand on that.

“For Kintyre, the dairy farmers are encouraged that First Milk has identified the island’s cheese as a realistic export opportunity. The producers discussed the potential to form a group to enhance efficiency and collectively work with each other and the co-op to make Kintyre a sustainable dairy region.

“You can look at these places as being at a disadvantage from the rest of the market however the people we met on Thursday do not want to stay at that disadvantage. They have got the water, the grass and they have got a good proportion of young people that want to stay and develop the local industry. On the likes of the mainland they are facing the problem that they can’t keep their youngsters involved in the farm and they want to go and do other careers.

“The attendance at the meetings proves the commitment these farmers have to the agriculture industry. It’s rare to get so many people turning out at these sorts of meetings in the less remote areas.”

Gary and George will continue to liaise with First Milk, the co-operative serving these areas, to ensure the prospects of farmers in both Campbeltown and Bute benefit from the opportunities identified in the Scottish Dairy Review. Collaboration, innovation and confidence are key to the future of the Scottish dairy sector and there is no reason the peripheral milk fields cannot play a full part.

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