Killinghall's Abigail, 11, in plea to PM over dairy farm industry

Abigail Morrell may only be 11 but she already knows about the impact of low milk prices on her family's dairy farm and is so concerned she has written to the Prime Minister asking for help.

Wednesday, 2nd March 2016, 5:38 am
Updated Wednesday, 2nd March 2016, 6:46 am
Abigail Morrell

The youngster dreams of one day running the farm at Killinghall, Harrogate, together with her elder brother, but is becoming increasingly fearful the business, which has been in the family for generations, will find it more and more difficult to survive in the current climate and she may not get the chance to lead the life she dreams of.

Her letter to Number 10 has already received a response, with Prime Minister, David Cameron, even adding a hand-written note at the end of the typed response telling the 11-year-old: “Yours was such a good and moving letter.

“We will try and help this vital industry,” he tells her.

Abigail’s father, Mark Morrell, yesterday spoke of his and his family’s pride in her determination to take the message to the very top: ”We are really proud of her.

“She wants the opportunity to be able to run the farm with her brother but the problem is will we still have a farm?

“I do not want to seem like I am hard done by but if we don’t watch it there are going to be hardly any dairy farmers left. That is how serious its got.”

“We have had 18 months of low milk prices,” he said and at the same time his costs had not fallen, putting him and many others in a perilous position.

Mr Morrell says he knows he is lucky to do a job he loves but hopes by speaking out people will support British farmers. The family’s plight has not escaped Abigail’s attention.

“I love my cows, all 261 of them,” she says in her letter to the PM.

She adds: “My dad keeps talking about how much the price of milk has dropped and he is very upset because he says he is not getting enough money to pay our bills.

“My dream is to run my farm with my brother. Please do whatever you can so that this will be a possibility for me. I couldn’t bear to see my precious cows go!”

Processors have blamed overproduction of milk in the UK, and in other European countries, since the abolition of quotas last year which controlled the volume of milk produced in EU member states. Price cuts have left many farmers with difficult decisions, with many making a loss and considering their future in milking.

Mr Morrell says his family is planning to travel to London join a march to 10 Downing street organised by Farmers for Action on March 23 to highlight the importance of the farming industry.

Downing Street’s response to Abigail’s letter includes an acceptance about the need for “better labelling for British dairy products” and encouraging “business-minded young people” into agriculture. It also said the Government was helping find new global markets for UK dairy.

Up to three Yorkshire dairy farmers are quitting the industry on average every single month.

The average price paid to the farmer per litre of milk in February 2014 was 33.95p - now, it is in the lower 20s. Any price below 30p is said by dairy farmers to be a smaller return than necessary to cover their cost of producing the milk in the first place.