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Penrith and the Border MP Rory Stewart hosted and chaired a high-profile dairy farming conference at Dolphenby Farm, Edenhall where he was joined by hundreds of Cumbrian farmers and the Minister for Agriculture Jim Paice to discuss the future of Cumbrian dairy farming.
This was the Minister's third visit to Rory Stewart's constituency, which the MP used to highlight Cumbrian dairy farmers' needs following the unprecedented price drop crisis of earlier this summer. The parliamentarians were joined by CEO of FirstMilk Kate Allum, NFU Dairy Expert Robert Newbery and dairy consultant Mark Voorbergen at the two-hour conference - organised by FirstMilk - where a broad range of issues were discussed with the intention of the local MP formulating a dairy 'manifesto' to create tangible improvements for Cumbria's dairy farmers.
He said: "The conference was all about the Minister hearing direct from Cumbria's dairy farmers, and discussing the ways in which dairy farmers can be given the tools to negotiate the prices that they deserve. This summer's dramatic price cuts were unexpected, and inappropriate; we need mechanisms in place to ensure this does not happen again.
"I am calling for a dairy manifesto that recognises and shapes the ways in which our dairy farmers can thrive and prosper in a market that fluctuates dramatically, and envisages the environment we need to create to enable that. This means making use of improved technologies such as smart-phone applications and better mobile and fibre broadband; identifying new export and joint-venture opportunities, such as those that FirstMilk are pioneering with Emirates Airlines and with Fonterra in New Zealand, producing whey protein products; and working on co-operative and partnership models whereby dairy farmers can collaborate on negotiating the best possible deals.
"I am enormously encouraged by the Minister's comments and input and will work closely with Cumbria's dairy farmers and with DEFRA to keep the momentum going and ensure that we really do make practical changes that will make a difference on the ground."