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Members of UK dairy industry raise concerns over new Hardship Fund

04 June 2020

After the UK government released details of a new fund aiming to help dairy farmers in England overcome the impact of COVID-19, the NFU and RABDF requested clarification on eligibility criteria.

The Dairy Response Fund for England and the Welsh Dairy Support Scheme will be open for applications on 18 June, with money being paid out from the 6 July.

However, information on both of the funds does not clearly explain who will be eligible with an expectation some dairy farmers could lose out.

A statement from DEFRA and the Welsh Government said: "farmers will need to demonstrate they have suffered a reduction in the average price paid for their milk of 25 percent or more in April and May 2020 when compared with February 2020".

However, there are concerns farmers who had to discard milk will not be eligible.

NFU dairy board chairman Michael Oakes said:

“We welcomed the original announcement of the package, and since then, the NFU has been talking to Defra about how the scheme could be delivered and the eligibility criteria that should govern it.

“Following the 3 June announcement we are seeking to understand the apparent switch from the scheme’s eligibility based upon loss of income, now to pence per litre milk price and how that might have a bearing on the number of farmers able to apply. COVID-19 has caused widespread disturbance in the dairy market and there is a danger that the scheme will fall short of what the NFU, and many in the industry, had anticipated when we saw the announcement last month.

“However, many farmers will benefit and we will be helping our members through the application process. As we improve our understanding of how the scheme is landing on farm, we will be seeking further discussions with Ministers and officials.”

The Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers (RABDF) likewise welcomed news of yesterday’s  hardship funds for dairy farmers from the English and Welsh Governments but says more information is needed about their eligibility criteria.

RABDF Chairman Peter Alvis said:

“While we welcome the support from Government it is disappointing that after a month of waiting there is still little detail as well as some confusion.

“We do not understand how farmers will demonstrate milk volumes dumped as this will not appear on milk statements and therefore, the volume loss can’t be evidenced in this way. In addition, the base price for the remainder of the milk may have stayed high, but by throwing away a couple of days production it could have easily tipped them over the 25 percent mark,” he said.

In addition, Mr Alvis said it was frustrating not to see non-bovine milk producers included in the latest announcement.

He added: “It is disappointing the non-bovine sector has been excluded yet again in this latest announcement about the fund despite both Governments being made aware of the fragility of the sector. Due to the small size of the sector, we hope the government can find a small sum of money to support them as without it, these farms will quite simply not survive.”

Up to the middle of May results from the RABDF dairy losses survey showed over 17 million litres of milk had received a reduced value with milk production reduction amounting to almost 3 million litres and milk not collected 1.15 million litres.


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