MSPs back transport discount for Bute dairy farmers

Dairy farming on Bute is facing a major crisis due to falling worldwide milk prices.

Dairy farming on Bute is facing a major crisis due to falling worldwide milk prices.

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A cut in the cost of transport for Bute’s hard-pressed dairy farmers looks a step closer as a result of a report by an influential group of MSPs.

The Scottish Parliament’s rural affairs, climate change and environment committee has recommended that the Scottish Government “looks sympathetically at ways of reducing the burden of transportation costs for our remote and island dairy farmers”.

The committee’s report, and recommendations, follow a short but intensive inquiry into the reasons for, and the implications of, a dramatic fall in the price paid to dairy farmers for their milk - in Scotland and across the world.

The recommendation on transport costs echoes a similar call from Argyll and Bute MSP Michael Russell, who sits on the committee; it also comes after Scotland’s cabinet secretary for the environment, food and rural affairs, Richard Lochhead, gave the idea a sympathetic hearing in talks with Bute dairy farmers last month.

The report also has some harsh words for First Milk, the farmer-owned co-operative of which all 13 Bute dairy farmers are members, and for the supermarkets whose decision to sell milk to customers for ever-lower prices has been widely criticised.

Of First Milk the report says: “The Committee is extremely concerned at the situation which has developed at First Milk and was disappointed in some of the engagement it had with the organisation during this inquiry.

“The Committee is of the view that some of the decisions and management that have led to this situation can be criticised and it is important that lessons are learned to ensure that any support offered is not undermined in the future by poor decision making or management.”

The report also asks Mr Lochhead to tell the committee exactly what action the government will be taking regarding First Milk, and seeks his views on what measures might be taken “to protect the members of organisations such as First Milk from failures in management”.

Click here to read the report in full.