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European Union Dairy Industry in Crisis

EU farm commissioner says UK dairy industry is in “very serious difficulty.”

The European Union’s dairy industry is suffering a crisis of unsustainably low prices, which is causing the closing of dairy farms at a rapid pace. In fact, last year the number of Scottish farms hit a record low, dropping below 1,000 for the first time since records began in 1904. At the Royal Welsh Show last week, European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Phil Hogan said that “there are not that many solutions” to this problem and that “we are doing what we can.” Artificially low milk prices (approximately 83 cents per gallon in Latvia and Bulgaria and $1.22 per gallon in the United Kingdom), coupled with a massive decline in dairy exports to China and a ban on EU milk imports to Russia, might cripple the dairy industry in the region. Farm union Copa and Cogeca chairman Mansel Raymond says farmers are growing desperate and that if people “don’t support this industry, I am fearful that by the autumn this dairy sector will contract so badly, I don’t think it will recover.” The dairy crisis is accompanied by nose-diving beef and pork markets as well, sparking disruptive protests by French farmers. The European Commission of Agriculture and Rural Development reports that “world food production needs to double by 2050 to cater for population growth and wealthier consumers eating more animal products—at the same time as dealing with the impact of climate change.” Countless studies indicate that meat-based diets require more energy, land, and water resources than vegan diets, so now might be a good time for EU farmers to switch to plant farming.

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