SIR, – When I googled the word contract, it said it 'is a legally binding agreement which recognises and governs the rights and duties of the parties to the agreement.

'A contract is legally enforceable because it meets the requirements and approval of the law. An agreement typically involves the exchange of goods, services, money, or promises of any of those. In the event of breach of contract, the law awards the injured party access to legal remedies such as damages and cancellation.'

So there we are, quite simple. As a fellow milk producer, can I ask what did you agree too? Well, some will say I was just glad to get a contract after the previous milk crisis, which in Scotland is a common statement as currently no milk contract is available apart from Lancashire-based Yewtree, which will take you on ... if you near any of their current producers.

I wish I could tell you a different contract will fix it all, but it won’t. We need to start somewhere and I would say that less than 2% of producers will have had any negotiation in their terms of their contract, so basically the other 98% signed what is effectively forced conditions with the only a guarantee the milk lifted on a daily basis.

The meetings NFU Scotland have planned next week is to make farmers aware of a consultation paper Defra will be releasing in the next few weeks (date to be confirmed) and we want to hear farmers views on their current contract and how they think it could be improved.

The three points that are my concern 'discretion in price' as it stands a processor can change price at any given time although some give 30 days' notice. My main gripe is they don’t have to justify the drop, but they will be good enough to feed you a story to suit the situation.

My second point is on 'exclusivity'. You have to give 100% of your product so in the instance when a processor has too much milk, you have no say in how extra litres are handled – again it's at the mercy of the processor.

The third point is on proper independent representation for producers, which is vital for our industry going forward and where they can communicate directly to the farmer with no interference from the processor.

I sound as if I don’t have any care for the processor, but I do. They are being screwed every bit as hard as we are but, as our contracts stand, squeezing the farmer harder is the saviour to processors at the moment.

Retailers have far too much power in the supply chain. The fact they can demand access to a processor’s accounts to see their margin is shocking and this needs stopped immediately.

It’s really important as farmers, that in all sectors we cannot to continue to sell our produce in this current fashion. More professionalism is needed and this also includes the volumes we produce and when we deliver it. There are lots of opportunity in the current supply chain but we need power of negotiation to gain our fair share.

Gary Mitchell

Vic-chair NFUS Milk Committee