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Dairy giant Arla Foods is launching a new UK dairy farming initiative with an emphasis on sustainability.

And it has received the support of discount retailer Aldi’s UK operation.

The farmer-owned cooperative’s new Arla UK 360 standard covers the six areas it sees as being essential to building a profitable, responsible dairy farm business against a backdrop of big issues facing the sector.

“With on-going volatility in the global milk markets, increasing consumer misunderstanding of the sector, polarised levels of support for UK dairy farmers and a new post-Brexit agriculture bill the challenges for dairy farmers are mounting,” it said.

Arla’s UK 360 programme incorporates best practice in dairy farming across animal health and welfare, people development, environment and natural resources, community engagement and economic resilience and reinvestment, and will “drive a vision for research and development areas that will lead the UK dairy agenda,” Arla said.

Graham Wilkinson, head of agriculture at Arla Foods UK and strategic lead for the programme, said: “This programme is a vision of how we help drive sustainable businesses for UK dairy farmers. It isn’t just about producing high quality dairy products. It continues the journey of our owners in driving a sustainable business, as stewards of the countryside and a critical part of UK food production. 

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“Crucial to its success is the support of retailers and foodservice businesses, as only then can the vision become a reality on farms across the UK.

“Arla farmer owners have a long-standing history of receiving support from UK retailers, however, with a new agriculture bill on the horizon, our owners want to drive sustainable change. As a farmer-owned cooperative we have to act in the best interest of all our farmers owners. That means making industry support and benefits work for the greater good of all our owners.”

Aldi is the first grocery retailer in the UK to sign up to the programme. The German discounter will work with its group of British Arla farmer owners through the Aldi Dairy Farm Partnership to share knowledge through the supply chain and explore and tackle waste on farms, initially searching for ways to reuse or recycle on farm plastic through the supply chain.

Fritz Walleczek, managing director of corporate responsibility at Aldi UK, said: “We have an excellent working relationship with Arla and are pleased to support this scheme through our new Aldi Dairy Farm Partnership. 

“We will be working with our dedicated Arla farmers to continue to enhance animal welfare and farm management through the 360 programme. This builds on our long-standing commitment to support British farmers and suppliers.”

The programme has been developed following a six-month trial with 79 Arla farmer owners. 

Arla Foods is owned by 11,200 dairy farmers with circa 2,500 of them in Britain.