Today I am re-blogging below this post from Milk Maid Marian which highlights the heartbreaking issues in the Australian dairy industry. Marian makes some very powerful and insightful comments and puts forward some thought provoking and very doable solutions. The question are the right people listening and most importantly will they act?
In my neck of the woods I spoke to my Parmalat Farm Services Officer yesterday who I know has been feeling the strain of working with dairy farmers for the past six months and struggling to deal with the devastation she is witnessing in the Australian Dairy industry. She asked me how our cows handled the heat. I said surprisingly well but then we had learnt from our past mistakes and put in 48 hours with almost no sleep to assist our dedicated team to hose our cows down (and other mitigation strategies) in the 43 degree heat to ensure they were as comfortable as possible and so far it has worked .
I also want to share this video with you.
It is powerful for a number of reasons, but mostly it highlights something Coles seems to have forgotten and that is real people farm and a lot of them are in pain because of Coles marketing strategies.
Coles remember real people farm – Photo by Sylvia Liber
Woolworths on the other hand are getting smart and recognising how important their farmers are and doing something about it . See article here. As Marian warns don’t kill the goose that laid the golden egg Coles.
The video also highlights farmer should never underestimate the impact of building direct relationships with their customers which is the very reason why I instigated Art4Agriculture and the Archibull Prize
Back to Marian – this is what Marian had to say this morning ……..
Dairy farmers gathered in their hundreds in south-west Victoria last night for a crisis meeting. What makes it a crisis? Very simply, dairy farmers are working seven days a week for free and petrified of losing our shirts.
Local agribusiness bankers tell me they are busy refinancing and arranging extra debt but land sales are at a standstill around here. Reporting on last night’s dairy crisis meeting, Simone Smith of The Weekly Times, described a “dire picture”:
“Warrnambool-based Coffey Hunt farm accounting specialist Garry Smith said across his client-base, farmers milking mostly between 450-500 cows, average feed costs were up 15 per cent – a $150,000 rise – with the cost of power for the first quarter of the year up 50 per cent.”
“He estimated across his client-base earnings would be 10 per cent down on last year with a combination of cash-flow and income down $260,000.
“Charles Stewart real estate agent Nick Adamson said better quality farms had dropped in value between 8-15 per cent, while others were up to 45 per cent down on peaks of several years ago.”
None of this is pretty and astonishingly, Peter Reith decided to appear on ABC’s The Drum website with a six-point plan that, at first, I thought was a spoof. Take a look and make up your own mind.
It’s not as simple as cutting petrol taxes and municipal rates. It’s tricky because of this conundrum: milk and dairy foods are considered so important that nobody wants to pay what they are worth to produce.
Every day I read comments on Twitter that go something like this: “My kids drink three litres of milk every two days, so I can only afford to buy $1 milk”. I know first-hand how tough it is to feed a family when you’re on struggle street, so I have a lot of sympathy for people in this predicament and it’s impossible to respond with anything other than compassion.
It’s hardly surprising, then, that there is no political appetite for an increased milk price. But the truth is this: dairy farmers should not and cannot fund an ersatz Australian welfare system by subsidising the cost of food. Welfare is the role of government.
So, while my dander is up, here’s a simple list of five tricky things that would make a big difference to this dairy farmer:
1. Deal with the supermarket duopoly
Down, Down, Down is not about you, dear milk drinker. The real reasons for the supermarket war are expressed in corporate ROIs rather than family budgets. At the end of the day, it will be the little people with the least market power – you, the shopper, and me, the farmer – who will pay.
2. Level the global playing field
Julia Gillard announced that Australia would be Asia’s food bowl but guess what? Unlike the world’s most powerful dairy exporters, the Kiwis, we do not have a free trade agreement with China, putting Australian dairy at an immediate 15% disadvantage. Nor do we receive the government subsidies that support our European and North American competitors.
3. Assist with the impact of the carbon tax
Australian dairy farmers are suffering a double whammy under the carbon tax. First, processors are passing the extra cost onto us in the form of lower farm gate prices (because the consumer won’t pay extra and nor will global commodity markets), reducing our incomes by around $5,000 each per year. At the same time, our costs – especially electricity and refrigerants – are rising in quantum leaps each quarter.
4. Support smart farming
Long exposed to the blow-torch of global export markets without subsidisation, Australia’s dairy farmers are among the most efficient in the world, according to research body, Dairy Australia. We can produce very high quality milk at a very low cost because we have invested in research and development. No longer. We are spending less and less on R&D and the Victorian government has just made massive staff cuts to our brains trust, the Department of Primary Industries.
5. Remember, I am the goose that lays the golden egg
I will not be able to continue to deliver high quality milk at such a low price while enhancing the environment and caring for our cows without sacrificing the basic wellbeing of my family and that, I refuse to do.