MILK CONTRACTS, supply chain inequality and labour were top of the agenda when NFU Scotland’s Milk Committee met with Cabinet Secretary Fergus Ewing MSP.

Mr Ewing was welcomed to the committee's first meeting since the union's AGM in February, to be met with farmer representation from Stranraer to Orkney and Ayrshire to the Borders.

Proposed legislative change via milk contracts was top of the bill, with a number of committee members explaining the current situation of their businesses. Mr Ewing agreed that better transparency was required within the dairy supply chain and added that open dialogue within the supply chain was critical to return a value for all.

NFUS understands that a consultation on the subject will shortly be published and encouraged all farmers to comment.

There was mutual agreement from both the committee and Mr Ewing that for some time it has been recognised there has been a lack of processing investment and new product development in high premium dairy products in Scotland and he underlined a commitment to support this where possible, referring to The UK Shared Prosperity Fund which will replace the current EU structural funds aligned to match domestic priorities.

The committee was also encouraged to hear Mr Ewing recognise the challenges for Scotland’s remote dairy communities, including the current labour supply issue and the importance of skills development. On this subject, there was discussion of opportunities for new entrants, succession planning and the benefits of the newly formed land matching service.

The union's milk committee said it was 'alive' to the climate change challenge facing all sectors of agriculture and the wider economy, and will endeavour to work with Mr Ewing to identify measures that mitigate the sector’s environmental impact and identify practical ways in which the sector can reduce its emissions. It welcomed Mr Ewing’s strong support for the Scottish dairy herd and his appreciation of the importance of its strong animal welfare standards and its ability to produce a high-quality product.

NFUS milk committee chair Gary Mitchell stressed: “At a time when a large percentage of Scottish dairy farmers are at best breaking even, and a number getting paid less than they were for their milk 25 years ago, it was vitally important we make Mr Ewing aware of the challenges we face, and it was reassuring to hear Mr Ewing acknowledge this and wanted to work with us going forwards.”