Ending EU milk quota system a threat and an opportunity for small scale dairy farmers, say Greens

Green South West MEP, Molly Scott Cato has warned that ending the EU’s milk quota system could increase the vulnerability of small scale dairy farmers in the South West. The EU milk quota system, which has been in place for 30 years, ends today and there will now be no instrument governing production quantities for dairy products in the EU. Molly Scott Cato, who sits on the European Parliament’s Agricultural Committee, said:

“The milk quota achieved its purpose of reducing public spending on indefensible butter mountains and milk lakes, but it could not prevent the massive price fluctuations and ever greater concentration of dairy production that we have seen in recent years. It was time to end the quota but simply discontinuing it will leave smaller dairy farmers vulnerable to crisis situations, like oversupply and price shocks.

Greens point to the fact that the number of dairy farmers in the UK has halved in the last decade, and the National Farmers’ Union now predicts that there will be fewer than 5,000 dairy farmers left by 2025. The European Parliament is currently drafting a report on the consequences of ending the milk quota system.

Dr Scott Cato believes there is now an opportunity for the EU to put in place appropriate measures to benefit small scale dairy farmers:

“Further liberalisation would lead to an industrialisation of the dairy sector, with farms compelled to expand and take on debts to compete or close down. This would undermine attempts to create a more sustainable agricultural model. Instead, smaller farmers should be encouraged to produce quality dairy products in a sustainable manner. Introducing origin labelling rules could promote shorter supply chains, while introducing a compulsory contract system would ensure farmers have greater power in the supply chain.”

The Greens have made a series of demands following the end of milk quota. Molly Scott Cato and other Greens will join an action in front of the European Parliament tomorrow organised by the European Milk Board (EMB) to protest at weaknesses in the follow-up to the milk quota system. The EMB believe that dairy farmers in Europe will now have less market power that will prevent them defending their interests.