Victorian Nationals Senator Bridget McKenzie joined forces with Senator Barnaby Joyce and Australian food campaigner, Dick Smith at a dairy crisis meeting in Tongala today that saw at least 500 disillusioned dairy farmers looking for change.
The meeting was co-ordinated by newly formed lobby group, Farmer Power and was chaired by Wyuna farmer, Nigel Hicks. The group is campaigning for a better milk price, preference for Australian-made foods and reviews of government policy.
Senator McKenzie said, the Nationals are prominent in seeking better social and economic outcomes for regional Australians.
“The Nationals are the farmers’ voice in Canberra. We are continually focusing on agriculture and the wider community impacts of our struggling dairy industry,”
“Dairy is Victoria’s biggest export earner and Victorian dairy farmers are responsible for the majority of Australia’s milk. They produce more than 65 per cent of the total output.
“Every dairy farmer in regional Victoria is struggling with farm gate prices having fallen 15 per cent in 12 months to 34 cents per litre or lower. It now costs far more to produce a litre of milk than the farmer will recoup by selling it.
“Most farmers are facing a loss this year as the cost of feed and electricity has risen by at least 50 per cent.
“I have farmers telling me that on an average 160-hectare property, costs have increased from $6,000 or $7,000 per month to approximately $11,000 per month and that farm and land prices have dropped by about one third. Land capital assets have been significantly devalued.
“On supermarket shelves throughout Australia we see non-branded milk at half the price of traditional brands and we see soft drink and bottled water at double the price of milk. The supermarket giants say it’s all about giving customers a choice – and it’s clearly a pricing strategy they intend to keep.
“We need to wake up. This is not just about the price of milk. This is about industry viability and food security.”