When I was but a small boy growing up in Lancashire in the 1970s and 80s, one of the things we knew about where the great milk lakes and butter mountains of the Common market. They were always on the news. I had this idea that they were stored in some Willy Wonka like fantasy factory where you could ski down the butter mountains and sail across the milk lakes.
Apparently not. They were just rather picturesque ways of describing the over production of Europe’s dairy farmers. Then in 1984, all this stopped with the introduction of milk quotas. Countries could only produce so much milk and were fined if their production went over this level. Well, today, these quotas are being withdrawn, and I have no idea whether or not this is a good or a bad thing for our dairy farmers here in Cumbria.
On the one hand, new markets will be opened up and they’ll be able to produce and sell more milk. On the other hand, so will everyone else in the EU and this may mean the influx of cheap dairy products from Ireland, France and Germany. This may be good for the consumer but bad for our own industry especially for some of the smaller scale dairy herds here in Cumbria.
It’s a difficult one to call. As I’ve written about previously, dairy farmers are at the harsh end of the supermarkets desire to increase profits and lower costs. Will this pave the way for fewer farmers and more super-herds? Milk farming on an industrial basis? I wish I had a crystal ball. All I know is that it adds to the uncertainty among local farmers. It will need a good deal of wit and imagination to move with the times.
We still need to continue to support our local farmers through this. If we don’t, we will lose our local dairy herds and we’ll have to bring milk from elsewhere in the UK and, maybe, from beyond. I don’t like that as an idea. Do you?