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Farmers hold emergency summit to try and solve milk crisis

More than a hundred people protested at ASDA in Bideford. Credit: ITV News

Farming unions are desperately trying to find a solution to the milk crisis at an emergency summit today, following widespread protests across the West in the last week.

Farmers say they are losing money on every pint they produce. In the latest action, more than a hundred people cleared supermarket shelves at an ASDA in Bideford, North Devon, in protest at the amount they now pay farmers for milk. You can find out more about what happened here.

Union bosses are at the summit trying to find a way forward, ahead of a meeting tomorrow with supermarket chain Morrison's. The supermarket's distribution depot in Bridgwater was targeted for a protest by hundreds of farmers last week.

On tonight's ITV News West Country we'll talking to a dairy farmer who has decided to the leave the industry for good. Tune in from 6pm.

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  1. National

Farming unions in crisis talks amid milk price protests

Four farming unions met today for an emergency summit amid widespread supermarket protests across the UK about "unfair" milk prices.

They say that government, retailers and the food service industry must "step up to the plate" to tackle the crisis facing the British farming industry.

Speaking after the summit, David Handley of Farmers For Action said "I don't think there's any farmer out there at the moment that will accept they can just sit back on their laurels."

The meeting follows days of protests by farmers including Milk Trolley Challenges, blockades at distribution centres and even bringing cattle into supermarkets.

Farmers estimate that it costs between 30 and 32p to produce a litre of milk but the average price paid across the UK is 23.66p - following a drop of 25% in a year.

Dairy farmers call on government, retailers and the food service industry to Credit: PA

Meurig Raymond, president of the National Farmers Union said farmers were facing "all the risk in these extremely volatile times".

I believe there is now, at long last, a recognition of the dire straits that farmers are finding themselves.

People are losing money. There is no way farmers can sustainably stay in business with these sorts of prices.

There has been a race to the bottom to devalue product. When four pints of highly nutritious milk is selling for less than a bottle of water then there is something wrong in the culture of society.

– Meurig Raymond, NFU president
Meurig Raymond speaking at NFU conference earlier this year Credit: PA

Scotland's Secretary for Rural Affairs, Food and the Environment called for widespread support of the dairy industry.

I am calling on retailers and other buyers to get behind the dairy sector in this time of need and to pay a fair price for milk.

I fully recognise the difficulties being faced by dairy farmers because of the low price being paid for milk and volatility on the global market, and I have written to my UK counterparts calling for a joint ministerial meeting on this issue.

I am also happy to meet again with the dairy sector at any time and in any place during these very difficult times."

– Richard Lochead, Scotland's Secretary for Rural Affairs, Food and the Environment

The four main unions, the National Farmers' Union, NFU Cymru, NFU Scotland and the Ulster Farmers Union, met today in central London to discuss the "crisis".

"We've come to make a point to Asda", say farmers

Dairy farmers who've been clearing shelves at Asda in Bideford say they're trying to shame the supermarket into raising prices:

"We've come to make a point to ASDA today, but also all the supermarkets that we're unhappy with some of the tactics they're using, not supporting British agriculture is an issue, and using imported goods when they could be using British products. We're and trying to shame them into raising the price for cheap milk."

– Michael Shadrick, Dairy Farmer from Bradworthy

Asda have issued the following statement:

Our milk is supplied by the Arla farmer cooperative. The Arla dairy cooperative is owned by farmers. We moved to this model after guidance from those who were supplying us and means the price received by our farmers is set by their own cooperative business. They receive an on-account payment for their milk and take an equal share of any remaining profit. There is no link between retail prices and farmgate price.

– Asda spokesperson

Dairy farmers clear supermarket shelves in Bideford

Trolleys of milk being handed out Credit: ITV News

Around 200 people have taken part in a protest today in Devon over the price of milk.

The dairy farmers have been clearing shelves at Asda in Bideford of cheaply priced milk and handing it out to customers in return for donations to the Children's Hospice South West.

There were also live sheep and pigs outside the store in pens as part of the protest.

Farmers say protests have been a success

Dozens of tractors were blockading the entrance to the distribution centre. Credit: ITV West Country / Ian Axton

Farmers For Action have said that because of their ongoing protests, the supermarket chain Morrisons have agreed to a meeting with them.

Dairy farmers from across the West Country took part in a mass protest outside the Morrison's distribution centreon the M5 near Bridgwater.

The farmers are arguing that they are losing money on every pint of milk they produce but Morrison originally said they're not seeking a low price.

Here's a statement from Farmers For Action:

Following all the recent activity in the last 7 days, with Milk Trolley Challenges originated by young farmers, and protests held in Cheshire last week and again last night Cheshire (600 in attendance) and Bridgwater in Somerset (1,000 in attendance), Morrisons are to meet within industry leaders on Tuesday of next week to discuss the serious issue facing British dairy farmers.

We would now please ask everyone to focus their attention on other retailers whilst talks with Morrisons take place.

Well done last night to everybody, both young and old your support was fantastic, behaviour was exemplary and obviously a big thank you to all our other partners who have played a part in the last 7 days focusing on the plight faced in the British dairy industry.

– Farmers for Action - Facebook

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  1. West Country (E)

Pictures: Ian Axton at the Bridgwater milk protest

Dairy farmers from across the West Country took part in a mass protest last night, outside the Morrison's distribution centre on the M5 near Bridgwater.

The farmers argue they're losing money on every pint of milk they produce.

But Morrison have said they're not seeking a low price, and are currently in talks with the NFU.

Our presenter Ian Axton was there last night, where dozens of tractors were blockading the entrance.

  1. West Country (E)

Tractor protest against supermarket milk prices

Dairy farmers from across the West Country have tonight blockaded the entrance to the huge Morrison's distribution centre on the M5 near Bridgwater.

The campaigners claim the dairy industry in the country will collapse unless the big supermarkets pay them more. They say they are losing money on every pint of milk they produce.

Farmers arriving at the protest at a supermarket distribution centre in Bridgwater Credit: ITV News
The protest in Somerset is part of a national action to call for fairer prices for milk Credit: ITV News
The farmers are united in wanting their plight made known Credit: ITV News
Tractors block the entrance to the Morrison's depot in a protest over milk prices Credit: ITV News
The farmers hope Morrison's - and other supermarkets - will listen to their point of view Credit: ITV News
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