A DEAL between dairy producers and milk processing companies “needs to be enforceable” according to county farmers.

Landowners have claimed a fall in the amount they are paid for milk by processors and unprecedented bad weather have put a strain on the county’s dairy farmers.

The amount farmers receive from processors is expected to fall from around 29p to just 25p per litre from August 1. As a litre of milk costs Oxfordshire farmers approximately 30p to produce., it means many are effectively operating at a loss.

The National Farmers’ Union and Dairy UK have agreed in principal to a “voluntary code of practice”, to be finalised over the summer, which could give farmers a greater say on the way milk prices are set. It would also mean supermarkets would have to give more notice when they plan on cutting the amount they pay for milk. But farmers still want the forthcoming cut reversed.

Geoff Ridgway, a dairy farmer from near Banbury and Farmers for Action member, said the devil of any deal would be in the detail.

He said: “Of course, I will welcome any deal which is good for the farmers.

“However, it will have to be something which is enforceable.

“We are at a crossroads as farmers. “We don’t want a fudge, we want something that’s positive to go forward, we don’t want to be fobbed off.”

Agreement in principal was reached on Monday, after the two sides met face-to-face at the Royal Welsh show in Powys.

The announcement came after landowners, tenants and campaigners said they would struggle with stock levels of food for cattle this winter.

Farmers produce milk that is bought by processors and then sold on to customers, including supermarkets.

Farmers the Oxford Mail has spoken to said it costs them 30p per litre to produce milk.

It is currently sold in Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Waitrose for 49p per pint, equivalent to around 85p per litre.

The Farmers for Action group said there were around a dozen dairy farmers in Oxfordshire.

Reuben White, from Cheers Farm near Abingdon, blamed the supermarkets for the situation.

He said: “The supermarkets have these dedicated groups of suppliers, so they can say they’re paying these wonderful prices, but nobody really knows how much of their milk they’re getting from these sources.

“Ian Potter, from Ian Potter Associates, has made estimates that it’s about 15 to 20 per cent coming from them, so the other 80 to 85 per cent is coming in through the back door at rock-bottom prices.”

He added that unprecedented bad weather was also harming the industry as farmers struggle to forage enough winter feed for their cattle. He said: “It’s potentially a very serious situation, more serious than the milk prices.”

NFU president Peter Kendall praised the decision from some supermarkets to increase the premium they pay.

He said: “We have started to see some positive moves by some retailers and this commitment to British dairy farmers is to be applauded.

“However, we now need to see all retailers and major buyers of milk stepping up to the plate.”

Last week, protests took place in Yorkshire, Leicestershire and the Robert Wiseman Dairy processing plant near Bridgwater, Somerset, which was blockaded by hundreds of farmers.