Milag asks farmers what they want from consumers

Germany’s Milag dairy working group has asked its Rhineland-Palatinate dairy farmers what they want from consumers, so that they can continue to work towards it in the future. Milag chairman Michael Horper sums up what his professional colleagues were concerned with, saying, “Appreciation, prices, climate change – we all have to struggle with that. Despite all the hurdles, I am happy and proud that our profession has managed to maintain food supplies even during the pandemic. You can rely on us farmers.”

As different as the participants were, they were unanimous in their wishes. Appreciation has long been at the forefront of what farmers hope for from society, and dairy farms are no exception. If the appreciation were reflected in a fair price, so a family can live on without fear of the future, it would be a great relief, they say.

Behind the term “appreciation” there are also intangible things, such as understanding (eg, unusual working hours), recognition and respect (eg, ensuring the food supply), but also acceptance (eg, smells and noises).
Many dairy farmers have noticed that the general public has become more aware of the value of food, but the idea of what is needed to produce it is still missing. The work effort is usually not related to the profit. “Being a farmer” is not a profession, but a vocation, an attitude to life, the dairy farmers think. There are no regular working hours, no fixed free time. They are always on duty as long as there is work.

The Rhineland-Palatinate dairy farmers also discussed the worries that they have. For example, how do EU policies, measures in climate, environmental and animal protection, globalisation or regionalism and food trends affect their work and prices? What impact does climate change have with droughts, tornadoes or heavy rain? Has the concept of family-run, peasant agriculture outdated and will there still be dairy farms in Rhineland-Palatinate as we know them in a few years?

Unusual topics also came up, including:

  • The desire for more objectivity in the discussions between livestock farmers, consumers and politicians, and decision-making for solutions on a scientific, not emotional basis
  • Making the profession more attractive: there are no employees
  • Buy regional and seasonal groceries – and learn how to keep them
  • See that a farm delivers more than food. Namely eg, a home for animals, birds, insects and several generations of people. It is a natural biotope
  • Honour farming’s social performance, such as the preservation of the cultural landscape.

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