Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

WE All Love a Good Moan [...]; COLUMNIST

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

WE All Love a Good Moan [...]; COLUMNIST

Article excerpt


WE all love a good moan about how everything used to be so much better in the old days.

No one more so than farmers, who are currently up in arms about the falling price of milk.

To keep their PR pitch simple, they heap most of the blame on price cutting by British supermarkets, when the reality is one of global supply exceeding demand. Milk production around the world has soared at the same time as Chinese demand growth has slowed and Russia has banned EU imports. To add to the misery, the natural reaction of many dairy farmers to lower prices is to buy more cows and increase output in order to maintain their income.

Once upon a time, farmers were sheltered from the harsh realities of global capitalism by the existence of the Milk Marketing Board: a statutory monopoly that guaranteed the same price to the dairyman with five cows halfway up a mountain in the Lake District and his counterpart with several hundred beasts on the Cheshire plain. In popular mythology this beneficent institution was abolished by the evil Thatcher, clearly not content with snatching milk from schoolchildren in the 1970s and closing all the coal mines in the 1980s.

In reality the Board was abolished in 1994, four years after Mrs Thatcher left office.

Still, some clearly see instructive parallels between those who feel a hereditary calling to milk cows and those communities where sons once followed their fathers down the pit to hew coal.

Only farmers naturally tend to get a better press because our idealised image of England tends to feature green fields, peacefully grazing cows, bee-filled hedgerows and farmhouses with roses around the door.

Despite the best efforts of the Pitmen Painters, this has rather more general appeal than blackened terraces, winding gear and slag heaps.

The British coal industry died because the stuff could be produced more cheaply elsewhere, and because of pressure from the global warming lobby to phase out its use.

The same fate is unlikely to befall the British dairy industry so long as we consumers stubbornly insist on buying our milk fresh, rather than as longlife UHT. …

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