VICTORIAN dairy industry representatives have asked federal Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig to provide cash assistance to help struggling dairy farmers through the present industry crisis.
The United Dairyfarmers of Victoria (UDV) and the south-west-based dairy farmer activist group Farmer Power put the request to Mr Ludwig at a meeting in Melbourne on Friday that was hosted by the Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF).
UDV president Kerry Callow, of Macarthur, said Mr Ludwig gave a fair hearing to the joint UDV and Farmer Power presentation but no indication of when the federal government might respond to the request. “I am comfortable with the meeting we had,” Ms Callow said.
Farmer Power spokesman Chris Gleeson, who was at Friday’s meeting at VFF headquarters in Melbourne, said dairy farmers needed short-term assistance to help them stay in the industry.
Mr Gleeson said the presentation to Mr Ludwig had highlighted why short-term assistance was needed.
“A lot of farmers are in trouble,” he said. Low milk prices, high feed prices and other burgeoning costs had put many dairy farmers under financial strain.
“We need short-term assistance until we fix the long-term issue of milk prices,” Mr Gleeson said. He said getting a better farm gate milk price would be achieved “by a combination of a number of things”. “We will work through it step by step.”
Ms Callow said the VFF had given over half of a previously arranged meeting with Mr Ludwig to allow the dairy industry crisis to be discussed.
She said the presentation to Mr Ludwig had also called for more resources to be allocated to existing programs to help dairy farmers such as one-to-one finance management advice, rural counselling and the farm management deposits scheme.
Farm management deposits are a risk management tool to help farmers deal with uneven income and allow farmers to claim a tax deduction for farm management deposits in the income year in which they are made.
Ms Callow said the high value of the Australian dollar played a big part in the present farm gate milk price and there was “no quick fix”.
Also at the meeting were UDV manager Vin Delahunty, VFF vice-president David Jochinke and VFF chief executive officer Graeme Ford.
In other developments, Farmer Power has welcomed the move by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to investigate claims by suppliers that Australia’s supermarket chains were abusing their market power to favour their home branded products.
Farmer Power has criticised supermarket chains for selling their branded milk for $1 a litre, saying it was devaluing milk.
Mr Gleeson said while the supermarket milk price war was only a small piece in the jigsaw that determined the farm gate milk price, growing the domestic milk market would help farmers’ position. He said the export market was not the main influence on the farm gate milk price because less than 40 per cent of Australian milk was exported as dairy products.