Today (Wednesday 22nd August), over 350 farmers and industry representatives from across Scotland gathered at Sandyford Farm in Ayrshire to witness the dairy cooperative's closing roadshow for 2012. Organisers of the event - usually open exclusively to First Milk members - took the decision open its doors to all dairy farmers in Scotland following an notable increase in recent enquiries from farmers keen to hear more about the company and interested in joining the dairy cooperative.
The event opened with a speech from First Milk chariman Bill Mustoe who addressed attendees on recent market developments and the progress made by the company in its route to diversify and drive added value for its members.
First Milk's chief executive Kate Allum echoed Bill's comments highlighting the company's acquisitions of Glenfield Dairy in Fife, and its sports nutrition business, CNP Professional, as key examples in its efforts to build a more robust business for its shareholders.
Speaking at the event, Kate said,
"We must take this window of opportunity to fix things once and for all. And we must do it now. There's no point waiting a couple of months, or even worse waiting a couple of years and then trying to restructure the industry against a backdrop of the quota removal across Europe and all the upheaval that will bring.
"2012 has already been a year of huge change in the British dairy - and the changes present stark options in terms of who farmers want to work with.
But now, more than ever, this is the time to be active, not passive - each one of us has to actively and carefully select what kind of future we want. And that's equally true for those of you who are unhappy with your milk buyer but choose to do nothing about it. You are also making an active choice to collude in behaviours you don't like.
" I appreciate that there has been a lot of anger from producers over the past few months. Now is not the time to talk about the past or to simply get angry - that anger has driven unity and that is key, but now it is time to re-focus that negative energy of anger and turn it into positive energy and drive for change.
"We've done enough 'dancing around the handbags'. It's time to get out of the stands and onto the pitch. The more producers come with us, the greater the opportunity to develop a broad range of markets and customers and the greater the influence on returns. It's that simple.
" I remain absolutely convinced that the best short term, medium term and longer term solution for farmers is strength in numbers."
In the afternoon, a farm walk and sustainability workshop took place for attending farmers, led by First Milk's Farm Sustainability Programme partners, the Edinburgh Vet School.