I am acutely aware of the hardships that our dairy farmers are facing as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and have been contacted by a number of farmers in Penrith and The Border about this.
As the MP for Penrith and The Border, I am doing everything I can in Westminster and Cumbria to address the concerns of my constituents. I am feeding in requests to Government for support for all areas of our economy and community and will continue to do so. Equally, I am feeding in to Government regularly and pushing for more flexibility and breadth in the very welcome support schemes that the Government has introduced during this crisis.
I have written to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) asking that they consider the financial support proposal from Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers. Equally, I have just been on a teleconference call with the DEFRA Secretary and encouraged him and DEFRA again to consider a hardship support package for dairy farmers at this time. The Government has now also announced that they will set aside some elements of competition law to make it easier for processors to come together and voluntarily work out how to ease production down in order to create the space in the market for that milk that currently has no home and to support a recovery in the spot price. The Government have asked the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (which supports the interests of dairy farmers and the wider farming industry) and Dairy UK (which represents the processors) to coordinate a proposal and discussions are already underway. In addition, an advertising campaign to encourage increased retail uptake of dairy products is being actioned.
As a member of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee I will also be working closely with colleagues on issues such as this. It is important that we stand by our farming communities during these difficult times, such that we have a food producing sector that can continue to produce high quality, high animal welfare and locally-derived food.
Thank you again for being in touch and for raising your concerns and please stay safe.
With best wishes.