Union’s cautious welcome on Bute Estate rent move

Dairy cattle on Bute.
Dairy cattle on Bute.

Scotland’s farmers’ union has given a qualified welcome to the news that the Bute Estate is to cancel rent payments for the island’s 13 dairy farmers.

NFU Scotland’s milk committee chairman Graeme Kilpatrick said the Mount Stuart Trust’s decision - which will see the Martinmas payment, due at the end of November, cancelled - was a positive one.

But he warned that the dramatic fall in the price paid to the farmers by First Milk, the co-operative of which they are all members, had created an immediate crisis for the dairy sector on Bute.

“This is a positive move by Bute Estate,” Mr Kilpatrick said, “which demonstrates the depth of understanding that many have of the severe situation affecting dairy farmers on the island.

“It is also reassuring that Bute Estate realise that protecting dairy farming is vital, not just to farmers, but to the wider community as a whole.

“Dairy farmers on Bute are receiving a severely low milk price and this is compounded by the increased capital contributions that they are making to First Milk. It is welcome news that Bute Estate understands the need for support to ease the pressure on farm cash flow.

“However, the immediate concern to farmers on the island will be their rent payments in May and we hope that Bute Estate will be understanding of the difficulties during what will be a real pinch point for many of the islands producer who, given the current situation, are focusing on the coming weeks.

“I hope that Bute Estate and farmers maintain an open discussion about the situation and how further support can be prioritised.”

Announcing the Mount Stuart Trust’s decision on Tuesday, Bute Estate factor Bob Baines said that immediate financial assistance “is also available now for dairy businesses, subject to conditions, irrespective of the proposed cancelled rent payment”.

A new pricing structure imposed by First Milk takes effect on April 1 and will see the price the company pays its farmers for their milk drop to a level not seen since the early 1980s.