“DISAPPOINTING” is how breakaway group Farmer Power has described federal Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig’s response to its concerns.
Farmer Power spokesman Jock O’Keefe, of Winslow, said a response this week by Mr Ludwig’s office showed the federal government had no understanding of the difficult financial situation facing many south-west dairy farmers.
After inviting federal opposition agriculture spokesman John Cobb to the south-west to hear first-hand about the farmers’ concerns, Mr O’Keefe extended the same invitation to Mr Ludwig.
“They (the federal government) do not consider it (the plight of dairy farmers) to be a major issue,” Mr O’Keefe said.
“We are getting paid the same milk prices that we were paid eight years ago and in that time our costs have doubled.
“In that time we have had the Global Financial Crisis and dry seasons.
“We have had high feed prices and a lot of people have had to borrow heavily. Anyone who has borrowed money to build infrastructure is under serious financial stress.”
A spokeswoman for Mr Ludwig said the federal government was continuing to meet with dairy industry representatives to discuss the impact of the supermarket milk price war and other issues affecting the industry.
The spokeswoman said the government recognised the ongoing concern among dairy farmers about the pricing of milk in supermarkets
“Farmers should receive a fair price for their products and have the opportunity to make a reasonable profit,” the spokeswoman said.
“The government supported both Senate committee inquiries into competition and pricing in the Australian dairy industry.”
Victorian Greens senator Richard Di Natale attended Farmer Power’s meeting at Noorat on Monday and said farmers’ concerns about the milk price war between the duopoly of Coles and Woolworths’ supermarkets had come through “loud and clear”.
Senator Di Natale, who was from the dairy area of Deans Marsh, near Colac, said he was keen to pursue the concerns expressed by dairy farmers.
“It is a fight I want to take up to Canberra,” he said.
Senator Di Natale said more competition for milk was needed in the domestic market to boost farmers’ returns.
Farmers Power committee member Chris Gleeson said a display by manufacturers of south-west dairy products at last night’s markets at Lake Pertobe was “something we need to do more of”.
He called on shoppers to urge supermarkets to give more shelf space to locally produced dairy products.