Listen: Brian Tessman in conversation with Stephen O’Doherty.
The dairy industry has hit crisis point as a result of soaring operational costs, crippling drought and ongoing challenges to achieve fair milk prices. The Queensland Dairyfarmers Organisation (QDO) have started a change.org petition for a ten cents a litre Drought Levy on milk.
Retail giants profiting
President of the QDO, Brian Tessman, told Open House that the retail giants selling milk for one dollar a litre are profiting from milk production to the detriment of dairy farmers, leaving many farmers struggling to feed their stock and keep their farms profitable.
He says a ten cent per litre Drought Levy the organisation is proposing is an important way to help dairy farmers suffering not only drought but low farm gate prices combined with continually rising operating costs.
Dairy farmers harder hit
The QDO say that while there is no doubt that all agricultural industries are hurting, the dairy industry faces a tougher challenge than most. To produce milk, dairy cows need to be in peak health and their food quality and quantity maintained. Whereas beef cattle can be fed lower quantity and quality feed to see them through the drought.
They argue that dairy farmers need extra help because the increasing scarcity and the price of freighting in fodder has hit the dairy industry hardest. Apart from the drought in Queensland and NSW dairy farmers in WA, SA, Tas and Vic need the assistance of a ten cent a litre Drought Levy since scarcity has led the price of grain and feed to record highs in all states.
Ten cent a litre Drought Levy
Combined with lower than sustainable farm gate prices, the Queensland Dairyfarmers Organisation want consumers to get behind the petition to all supermarkets, in particular, Coles and Woolworths, to increase the price on all milk by 10 cents per litre and for processors to guarantee that the full amount will go directly back to the farmers.
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QDO’s campaign to put pressure on the supermarkets, processors and government to introduce a 10 cent/litre Drought Levy is still receiving strong support nationwide with the petition now having over 71,000 signatures.
Processors agree to pass levy to farmers
The QDO say scepticism about any Drought Levy finding its way to farmers “…has turned to hopefulness since major processor, Parmalat agreed that they would pass on the full levy amount to its farmers. NORCO also announced its support so the ACCC report stating that that having consumers pay more for milk would not guarantee that the money would go back to farmers, has proven untrue.”
The QDO says “Imagine the stress, knowing that the majority of the profit you work so hard and tirelessly is not going back into your business.The economy as a whole suffers when our farms and farmers suffer.”
Negative effects of cost cutting
They claim that “Relentless cost-cutting by some of the big supermarket chains will wipe-out the Australian dairy industry unless we do something. If things continue, traditional dairy farms will disappear. The economy of milk production, especially on medium to smaller farms has become unsustainable as this cost-cutting continues to have negative impacts.”
The QDO website says that “the number of Australian dairy farms has fallen by almost three quarters since 1979/80 from 21,994 to 5,789 in mid-2017. Dairy farming is Australia’s 3rd largest rural industry, which generates $3.7b in farm gate production with only a fraction of this going to farmers. In Australia approximately 42,000 people are employed in the Dairy Industry.”
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