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High-powered delegation to press minister over Ulster's milk crisis

By Chris McCullough

Published 11/08/2015

DUP MEP Diane Dodds
DUP MEP Diane Dodds

A delegation of farmers and politicians from Northern Ireland is travelling to London to take the local agriculture crisis straight to Defra Secretary of State Liz Truss.

The high-powered meeting is being facilitated by Upper Bann DUP MP David Simpson, who sits on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee (Efra) committee in Westminster.

Dairy farmers Charlie Weir from Waringstown and Kyle Savage from Donacloney are travelling as part of the delegation to put their case forward.

DUP MEP Diane Dodds and Paul Vernon, chief executive of Glanbia Cheese, and who sits on the board of Dairy UK, will also make the trip.

The group hopes to make it clear to Ms Truss exactly how bad the situation is in Northern Ireland and to push for a more suitable intervention price from Europe.

MP Mr Simpson said: "The goal of the meeting is to put our case across to the Defra Secretary of State to see if there is anything she can do in the short-term.

"Farmers need urgent help before the pressures force some of them under.

"We don't know how long banks can hang on in this crisis before they start to come knocking on farmers' doors.

"Realistically, the dire situation won't change until at least the first quarter of next year.

"There will be a number of farmers who won't be in operation at the end of this year, never mind next year.

"Hence why action is needed urgently now and not later, as some farmers won't make it. We will put a strong case to Liz Truss. Intervention is the answer as the European Union is not keen on export refunds.

"Farmers cannot wait any longer, they need help now."

Mr Weir says he will leave the Defra Secretary of State in no doubt over how bad the situation is.

He said: "We will tell her exactly how it is in Northern Ireland. There is no way we can survive losing money each and every time we milk the cows.

"We were encouraged to expand in the past and we did so.

"Now we are being hammered by low prices and moreso since the quotas were abolished.

"Liz Truss needs to act and act now before its goodnight for dairy farmers."

Meanwhile, SDLP MP Margaret Ritchie has called for an urgent meeting of the Efra committee at Westminster to deal with the deepening crisis.

Ms Ritchie said: "The crisis in milk prices, which has seen dairy farmers in the north and in Britain paid below production costs, has become critical.

"I have repeatedly made representations at the very highest political level to urge resolution to the situation and I have now called for an emergency sitting of the Westminster Environment, Food and Rural Affairs committee.

"Farming unions are now coming together to show a united front in the face of this crisis.

"It's important that we have a united political front to support them across all parties and all devolved nations.

"The farming industry in the north is an economic cornerstone and it's imperative that we take urgent action to offer more security at such a turbulent time," Ms Ritchie added.

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