WHEN Jock O’Keefe and Chris Gleeson decided to highlight the plight of dairy farmers they had no idea how quickly the campaign would gather steam.
Within days there were 600 people at a public meeting in Noorat and there are still hundreds of farmers from across the state and in South Australia contacting them for assistance from the fledgling Farmer Power movement.
“We were blown away by the response,” they told The Standard yesterday after another meeting at Terang which attracted the attention of two state ministers, three other state MPs and a federal MP.
“Farmers are telling us they need to stand up for the industry.
“It’s been a tough season and there are growing economic pressures.
“They can’t pay their bills and need assistance immediately.
“We’re doing this out of passion for the industry, not for our own glory.”
They’ve been contacted by farmers in northern Victoria planning a crisis meeting on February 13, others in Gippsland and across the border.
Mr O’Keefe is a fifth-generation dairy farmer from Winslow and Mr Gleeson a fourth-generation farmer from Crossley who both fear for the industry’s future.
“We don’t want family farms to go,” Mr Gleeson said.
“There are no young people coming through.
“This is an industry we love and an industry that should be respected.
“The UDV and VFF have had six months to act but haven’t, and now this new movement has achieved an amazing response within a few days.
“The number of farmers nationally has fallen from 21,000 to 6700 in 20 years.”