Levy-funded DairyCo package to be rolled out through consultants

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NFU Scotland has welcomed the launch of a levy-funded package aimed at delivering financial advice to hard-pressed dairy farmers.

The initiative to develop a fast track financial advice package was originally instigated by NFU Scotland in December 2014 and discussed with the new Scottish Dairy Hub, levy body DairyCo, SRUC and a number of banks at that time.

The scheme offers consultant support, funded through the statutory milk levy, to help assess the immediate impact on cash-flow from the dire dairy market situation. It is designed to help dairy farmers to better understand what is likely to happen to cash-flow and business finances. It will enable business plans to be modified and informed discussions to take place with lenders or others, should this be needed.

The announcement last week by the farmer-owned dairy co-op First Milk that it was deferring payments to its members by a fortnight and increasing capital contributions means that the timing of the initiative is welcome. Details of the initiative have already been emailed to First Milk members and information is available to all GB dairy farmers on the DairyCo website, and in Scotland via Stuart Martin at the Dairy Hub.

The details of the offer are at: http://www.dairyco.org.uk/technical-information/business-management/planning-ahead/short-term/cash-flow-challenges/#.VLe_ANKsUaA Dairy farmers who believe this support offer would be of use are asked to contact Barbara Dunn at DairyCo on 02476 478684. A list of suitable consultants will then be provided.

Commenting on the initiative, NFU Scotland Milk Committee Chairman Gary Mitchell said:

“Even before the First Milk announcement last week, it was clear that many dairy farmers, regardless of who they were selling their milk to, were feeling the effects of the steep downturn in dairy prices and tumbling prices for milk.

“We understand many dairy farmers may already seek consultancy advice, however we need to make sure that this is targeted towards those who don’t already utilise the services available.

“We can’t predict how long this downturn is going to last and we would encourage all those who have been affected to use this scheme. As a Union we want as many dairy farmers to come out the other side of this in the best possible position.

“This initiative is the part of the work started by NFUS and others in December and its prompt roll out to dairy farmers is welcome. We will continue to work with the Dairy Hub, DairyCo and other stakeholders to ensure the analysis on farm is pertinent, farmer friendly and useful.

“It is designed to help those who have already experienced a sudden drop in returns for milk or have milk price cuts looming to access a competent consultant to examine what these cuts might mean for cash-flow, budgets and borrowing.

“It will help producers through the difficult job of forecasting milk production in the months ahead, likely returns from that milk and what that may mean when it comes to working with banks and creditors in the difficult months ahead. Having a clear knowledge and understanding of finance is crucial for farming businesses to help manage the present difficult period, to ensure they have a future going forward.

“The Union also believes that, for many Scottish dairy farmers at this time, there may be a wider need to review the whole farm business to be able to consider all options for longer term. We continue to discuss with Scottish Government the merits in helping to support a fast-track whole farm review targeted at the dairy sector.

“Pressure is currently greatest on First Milk members. We met in private with co-op officials this week and would encourage co-op members to attend the member-only meetings scheduled for Fenwick and Carlisle next week.

“There are other factors dairy farmers need to consider and through our member’s taxation helpline we have been made aware that farmers paying tax on 31 January may have options open to them to alleviate the burden and should speak to HMRC as soon as they can.

“We recognise and understand that this is a difficult time, and if someone has fears or is facing difficulties there are free and confidential helplines available, whether that’s through the RSABI’s Gatepost helpline, or via another avenue, please speak to someone.”