Bute’s dairy farmers are to have their rental payments cancelled by their landlord as part of measures to help them through the milk price crisis.
The move is part of a range of emergency measures being put in place by the Mount Stuart Trust following a recent announcement by First Milk, the co-operative of which all Bute dairy farmers are members, to introduce a new pricing policy from April 1.
The new ‘A and B’ approach to pricing will see a reduction in the price paid to the island’s farmers to a level at around half of what it was a year ago and take it back to levels not seen since the early 1980s.
Bute Estate factor Bob Baines commented: “In view of this unprecedented crisis for our dairy farms the Trustees agreed to take emergency measures earlier this month, the final stage being a consultation with a number of our dairy farmers on how support might be given.
“The Trust’s primary objective is to ensure that dairy farming continues on the island into the future in the interests of the Trust, all of the island’s farms, and the island economy as a whole.”
The measures will include the postponement of all agricultural rent reviews until November 2016 and, subject to certain conditions, confirmation that dairy farms will pay no rent for the next agricultural half year from Whitsun through to Martinmas at the end of November if the price paid by First Milk does not recover sufficiently.
Mr Baines advised: “After the end of May this means no rent will be payable until the same time next year by our dairy farms. Immediate financial assistance is also available now for dairy businesses, subject to conditions, irrespective of the proposed cancelled rent payment.
“The assistance has been structured to provide support to the dairy sector as a whole. We want to maintain the current level of production for as long as possible and buy time for the milk market to recover so we have the best chance of retaining dairying on the island for the future.
“As a charitable trust we have limited funds, but we believe dairy farming is critical to the Trust and the agricultural sector as a whole. As a result we will target whatever resource we can make available to where we believe it will be most effective in helping the sector ride out the current crisis.”