Farmers Improve Communication with Politicians

BELGUIM - At a consultation with the milk producers in Belgium’s Walloon Regional Parliament on 24 January the new Minister of Agriculture Carlo di Antonio showed interest in milk producers’ problems, writes Astrid Sauvage from the European Milk Board.
calendar icon 15 February 2012
clock icon 2 minute read

The meeting was arranged at the initiative of the EMB member association MIG, the Dairy Farmers’ Association. It was attended by the new Minister of Agriculture and representatives of each party. The aim of the consultation was to present the critical situation of dairy farmers in Europe to the politicians, taking France and Switzerland as examples.

The reports were given by Frenchman Paul de Montvalon, President of Office du Lait, and Nicolas Bezencon from the Swiss EMB member organisation Uniterre. The situation in Switzerland is particularly problematical, since milk prices have plummeted as a result of the abolition of the quota system.

During the consultation it quickly became clear that the politicians were by and large totally unaware of the Belgian dairy farmers’ plight. One of the reasons why, according to Erwin Schöpges, President of the MIG and a member of the EMB Board, is the lack of communication between producers and politicians.

“Generally speaking, milk producers are not invited to consultations on agriculture and so far there has hardly been any debate on the issue in Belgium”, says Mr Schöpges.

“The MPs and the Minister, who has not been in office for long, seemed surprised when we entered the room with a delegation of 20 dairy farmers. But everyone there showed great interest and stayed right to the end.”

An important point discussed was the problem of the co-operative dairies. The thorny issue is that the members no longer have any real influence on “their” co-operative. This means that the members’ interests are not given due consideration. Here the politicians backed down to some extent. They said that, although they were aware that some were no proper co-operatives any more, as yet there was no solution to the problem in prospect.

Mr Schöpges was basically satisfied with the consultation saying: “Altogether they seemed interested in and receptive to our concerns, and the Minister already said he was open to further talks. For us the meeting was another high point in terms of political acceptance.”

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