And that same standard of excellence exists here in the Creamery, as I found out when I was allowed to start the cheese-making process for the limited edition Diamond Jubilee cheddar.

Ladies and gentlemen, I cannot begin to thank you for the warmth of the welcome I have received here at the Davidstow Creamery today. It is such a pleasure to visit a company that is playing such an important part in the life and the economy of Cornwall and the South West of England.

It would be hard to think of a better place for a creamery than in the heart of one of the most productive parts of the dairy sector in the United Kingdom. Of course, in my humble opinion, this country has some of the best farmers in the world who produce some of the finest milk – and I have been delighted to meet some of them today, including one or two Duchy tenants. So few people understand what real skill is required to be a dairy farmer. It demands constant attention to detail and the management of each cow in the herd every single day – and there is no doubt in my mind that those who ensure the best quality of life for the animal mark out the best from the rest. I need hardly say, therefore, that I was particularly pleased to have been able to present those splendid bronze cows to Mr. Sampson, Mr. Ludwell and Mr. Littlejohns for consistently producing milk of high quality for five years – that is an enormous achievement.

And that same standard of excellence exists here in the Creamery, as I found out when I was allowed to start the cheese-making process for the limited edition Diamond Jubilee cheddar. I am told that Marks and Spencer and Waitrose will be selling it, when it has matured next year, to celebrate The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and in support of my Countryside Fund. This is marvellous news and I could not be more grateful to Dairy Crest, Waitrose and Marks and Spencer. The funds raised will make the whole difference to the ability of my Countryside Fund to continue to care for those who care for our very precious countryside.

But what I discovered to my great delight when I was in the Creamery was that the methods used to make the cheese are exactly the same as those of artisanal cheesemakers – albeit on a slightly larger scale! It was enormously reassuring to learn that all the cheesemakers here attend a course at Duchy College to ensure that they understand the principles of proper cheesemaking. And I suspect it is only because this approach is used that the cheese produced here is of such a high quality (and I know it is because Mark Pitts-Tucker has just given me a crash course on understanding the finer points of cheddar!) – and why it is so enormously popular with the consumer.

What Dairy Crest has managed to do so successfully is add value to the raw product, and this must be the way to enable the farmer to receive a fair return for the milk produced and thereby to invest in the future. It seems madness to me that it costs more to buy a litre of water from a supermarket than a litre of milk – there is something very strange about a world which values a product so low which takes so much from man and animal to produce…

I know that Dairy Crest is also working on an innovative scheme to build a distribution hub in Wales in order to improve the viability of dairy farmers in that other vitally important part of the U.K.’s dairy sector. But there is much more that needs to be done to put the dairy sector, particularly the smaller and medium sized herds, onto a secure footing. I learnt only the other day, for instance, that 411 dairy farmers have given up this year alone. However, as you have just heard, Mark Allen is the indefatigable and determined chairman of my Rural Action Programme at Business in the Community, and he is working very hard leading a team from all parts of the dairy sector to see what we can do to help improve the financial viability of the farms facing the greatest difficulties and which are at most risk. There will be more to say about this in due course, but I do particularly want to take this opportunity to express my warmest gratitude to both Mark Taylor and Lyndsay Chapman who are working so tirelessly on this project.

As Mark Allen has just mentioned, one of the issues that needs pretty urgent tackling is the overuse of antibiotics – one of the headless chickens (to mix agricultural metaphors!) that is coming home to roost with a vengeance. Mark has very kindly picked up my recent challenge on this when I was alerted to some research by Cambridge scientists about the dangerous side-effects resulting from the abuse of antibiotics. Of course, when used correctly, they can be crucial for maintaining animal health. Used incorrectly or prophylactically they pose a real risk to animals and people alike. At the end of the day, it surely cannot be right to use such drugs to increase yields and to cover up poor management. And it cannot be right to use them whether or not an animal is sick. Apart from the ethical and animal welfare issues, I know that the presence of antibiotics in milk makes it impossible to make cheese. So on every count this is an issue which needs to be addressed. Dairy Crest produces one in six pints of the milk in this country – yours is a voice that really counts and needs to be heard in the struggle to redress some of the worst effects of the over-industrialized farming systems that are sweeping across the world and will cost us very dear in years to come…

Today, I have also been able to celebrate another area in which Dairy Crest is giving a lead. I started (although I rather think they were already going!) the splendid new biomass boilers which have been installed here. Mark called them part of your virtuous circle, and they certainly are – waste wood producing new energy and removing the need for heavy fuel oil. A reduction of nearly 22,000 tonnes of carbon emitted each year is a huge achievement – and I know it is in addition to many other environmental initiatives driven by the remarkable staff here at Davidstow and across Dairy Crest. I am so pleased that Business in the Community has been able to showcase what you have done today with Dalkia to a whole group of business leaders and I hope they, and others, will be encouraged to follow in your very tiny carbon footprints!

Ladies and gentlemen, the Davidstow family is clearly an especially close one. You have a real pride in what you do and how you do it, be that in the Creamery, with your farmers or in the community and I could not be more delighted to mark my visit by unveiling this plaque…