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A monthly newsletter brought to you by Free Range Dairy Network
Volume 1, Issue 6
January 2016

Editor’s Comment


It might be cold out there but Free Range Dairy CIC is back with a warm welcome for all our supporters for 2016. This month the work of Free Range Dairy CIC got a great endorsement from Prof Michael Lee at the first Global Farm Platform Conference held in Bristol. Prof Michael Lee used comparative research collected by fellow Director Neil Darwent in his presentation on sustainable livestock practices. You can find out more about the Global Farm Platform in the short article below and read Neil’s blog from the day.
 
As we go into 2016 we are seeing more and more consolidation of the dairy industry. Dairy Crest has been brought up and merged into Muller which means that two large processors Muller and Arla control the lion’s share of the milk market and milk processed for consumers via retail in the UK. Free Range Dairy CIC is here to support our pasture based dairy farmers, independent processors and give the general public a real choice in the future of food and farming production. Without initiatives like Free Range Dairy CIC and independent farmer producers our choice of the milk and farming system we want to support would be consolidating alongside the access to processing facilities.
 
No doubt there will be more challenges ahead in the dairy industry but Free Range Dairy CIC is at least trying to offer more choice for consumers and secure a better deal for farmers. The Free Range Dairy Pasture Promise label is a way to guarantee that cows have grazed for a minimum of six months per year and pays farmers more for their milk. No other label can do that and the only way to know for sure that the milk you buy comes from traditional dairy farmers that graze their cows is to buy milk with the Pasture Promise label or support us in cafes and restaurants that use Pasture Promise milk.
 
To support Free Range Dairy CIC please take our pledge and if you want to know where to buy it here is a list of stockists and find out about our farmers here.

Breaking news - today in the Farmers Guardian, Farmers for Action claims it had heard from ’various sources’ Muller has attempted to take business from Arla by offering milk at a discounted rate to other retailers. For the full story click here.

Best wishes,

Carol Lever
Co-Director
Free Range Dairy CIC

 

In this Issue


1. Global Farm Platform 

2. Milk Processing in the UK

3. TTIP
 

Global Farm Platform


The major challenges of the twenty-first century, namely climate change, population growth, environmental pollution, loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services, and availability of food, water and energy need a new approach. In 2012, common ideals and goals led to a partnership of scientists in world-leading universities and agricultural research institutions across six continents to create the Global Farm Platform, a vision of sustainable and responsible production of healthy food from healthy animals.
 
The challenges for future farming are complex and require solutions that can only be developed and demonstrated on real-world farms. In contrast to conventional research stations, model farms enable researchers to define and implement ‘ideal’ farming systems that are economically, environmentally and socially sustainable in their local contexts. Model farms can also strengthen links between food producers and consumers, and between research institutions and our communities, schools, industries and local authorities.
 
Changing farming practices is difficult, and there will be no one-size-fits-all solution to the problems ahead of us. The Global Farm Platform will identify better practices to optimise livestock systems in different regions, using local resources, breeds and feedstuffs — and produce tangible evidence in collaboration with local farmers to find solutions to the major challenges we will all face in the future. 


 

The Future of Milk in the UK


At the end of December last year, it was confirmed that Dairy Crest’s trading and distribution operation is to be rapidly integrated into Muller. In the UK there were three main processors which included Arla, Muller and Dairy Crest, now it’s only two. The next largest five liquid milk processors account for just 13% of the liquid milk supplied in the UK.

Muller is the largest private dairy in Germany and has held the market leading position in the UK’s yogurt segment since 1995. Muller has acquired Dairy Crest’s processing, trading and distribution activities relating to liquid milk, packaged cream, flavoured milk and bulk commodity ingredients. It includes Dairy Crest’s dairy facilities at Severnside, Chadwell Heath, Foston and Hanworth together with around 70 depots.

At the start of 2012, the group took over Robert Wiseman Dairies, with its state-of-the-art plants, vast distribution network and extended family of British dairy farmers with the company acquiring Dairy Crest Group plc in December 2015.

The company has invested over £500 million in the expansion of its dairy and distribution network since 1994 alone – more than any other fresh milk producer in the UK. These operations have been combined with Muller Wiseman Dairies to create Muller Milk & Ingredients. The business will employ over 8,000 people and process 25 per cent of Britain’s milk production, with 2,000 dairy farmers contracted to supply the business.

The other big player in milk processing is Arla Foods set up in the 1880s, when dairy farmers in Denmark and Sweden joined forces to set up a farmer owned co-op. It's owned by 12,700 dairy farmers, around 3,000 of whom are in the UK and supplies Milk for Farmers.

Arla is the UK's largest supplier of fresh milk and cream, producing over 2.2 billion litres of milk every year. The company also operates the world's largest milk processing plant in Aylesbury which processes and packages up to one billion litres of milk a year from British farms across the UK.

What this means for farmers and consumers is that there are now two major processors supplying the vast majority of milk to outlets like supermarkets which sells approximately 70% of all milk in the UK.

Whilst streamlining business practices can make products cheaper it doesn’t seem to be a business model that works along the supply chain back to the dairy farmers, with many farmers still being paid below the cost of production. Also what does streamlining mean when it comes to choice? Consumers supposedly hold the power as we can vote with our purse but if all you’re offered is milk from intensive farms, or cheap milk that’s putting farmers out of business where is the choice?

Free Range Dairy CIC believes it’s important to support not just our British dairy farmers but also our smaller British processors. Without initiatives like this we would be given milk, dairy and other food products that maybe we don’t want but we have no choice but to buy. 
 

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)


The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is a series of trade negotiations being carried out mostly in secret between the EU and US. As a bi-lateral trade agreement, TTIP is about reducing the regulatory barriers to trade for big business, things like food safety law, environmental legislation, banking regulations and the sovereign powers of individual nations. It is basically a worrying threat to democracy versus corporations. The reason this is a worry is because a corporation can decide to sue a country should those policies (legislation) damage their commercial interests or threaten their financial gains.

A law passed in Australia in 2011 required cigarettes to be sold only in plain packs. Philip Morris and a group of other tobacco multinationals challenged this legislation in Australia's domestic courts and were defeated. In Australian law, that was the end of the matter. But Philip Morris was able to launch another action - still continuing - under an International treaty and this is a snapshot of what the TTIP deal could mean for democracies across the globe.

Many find the negotiations around the TTIP deals secretive and undemocratic with much of the information coming from leaked documents and Freedom of Information requests.

The Independent has listed six reasons why we should be very concerned about TTIP with one showing what this could mean for food and farming in the UK:

Food and environmental safety
TTIP’s ‘regulatory convergence’ agenda will seek to bring EU standards on food safety and the environment closer to those of the US. But US regulations are much less strict, with 70 per cent of all processed foods sold in US supermarkets now containing genetically modified ingredients. By contrast, the EU allows virtually no GM foods.

The US also has far laxer restrictions on the use of pesticides. It also uses growth hormones in its beef which are restricted in Europe due to links to cancer. US farmers have tried to have these restrictions lifted repeatedly in the past through the World Trade Organisation and it is likely that they will use TTIP to do so again.

The same goes for the environment, where the EU’s REACH regulations are far tougher on potentially toxic substances. In Europe a company has to prove a substance is safe before it can be used; in the US the opposite is true: any substance can be used until it is proven unsafe. As an example, the EU currently bans 1,200 substances from use in cosmetics; the US just 12.

As our milk processing facilities becomes more ‘consolidated’ and our food safety laws are under threat, it’s important that consumers make sure that we have our say in the food and farming systems we want to support. Consumers telling supermarkets they won’t buy products with GM ingredients went a long way to keeping them out of our food and off the shelves. Let’s remember that the next time we feel powerless when up against big business.

38 degrees is running a petition on the TTIP here.
 
If you have any stories to contribute then please contact Free Range Dairy at info@freerangedairy.org.
 
Copyright © 2016 Free Range Dairy, All rights reserved.




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