There is an old saying which goes along the lines: “You never see a farmer on a bike.”
It is usually trotted out as a punchline by those angered at frequent tales of woe from members of our agricultural community. We often hear from ruddy-faced men in wellies how the farmers of Great Britain are being pushed to breaking point thanks to tumbling prices.
The trouble is lots of folk have as much difficulty sympathising with our nation’s farmers as they do with city bankers or disgraced politicians. To many the pleas of hard times is difficult to reconcile with magnificent homes and gas-guzzling 4x4s that some farmers seem to possess. Of course this isn’t the reality for the majority, but perception is everything and in the court of public opinion, farmers often struggle to attract much support.
In a different lifetime I enjoyed a happy two-and-a-half years living in rural middle England, a place where I was woken every morning by the local cockerel. I became good friends with those who worked the land and developed something approaching an understanding of what it takes to put food onto our dinner tables. I heard about the challenges they faced and, on occasions, I had a degree of sympathy for their plight.
But despite this brief dalliance with life down on the farm, I find it difficult to see a way out of the latest crisis to affect our farming industry – the price of milk. We are beginning to see signs of a rising revolt from the tractor drivers of Great Britain who are incensed it is costing dairy farmers money to provide the country milk to pour on its cornflakes.
We have already seen farmers ‘confiscate’ milk from the chilled aisles of supermarkets in protest of, what they say, is the systematic destruction of a business, that in the case of many, has been in their families for generations.
Most dairy specialists are now being paid an average of less than 24p a pint of the white stuff, compared to the 30p they say it costs to produce it. The amount paid to dairy farmers has slumped by 10 per cent in 2015 and there is no sign of this figure improving any time soon.
At a time when the provenance of food is perhaps as important to consumers as it ever has been it seems that cow juice is one of the few things that we are willing to skimp on. There aren’t many major chains where you cannot pick up four pints of milk for a quid or less.
I am proud to say I shop local, but would I pay more for my pint of milk? I very much doubt it.