SOUTH-west dairy farmers sent a strong message of discontent to their industry organisations and politicians with a massive turnout at a crisis meeting at Noorat last night.
About 600 people attended the meeting, packing the Kolora-Noorat Football Netball Club and spilling out onto the ground.
Co-organiser Chris Gleeson drew applause from the meeting when he told the crowd the United Dairyfarmers of Victoria and Dairy Australia “did nothing for us”.
“We need to stand up and show we need to be respected,” Mr Gleeson said.
He questioned the need for six dairy industry organisations, saying “too much money is wasted.”
The crisis was exemplified by the dramatic decline in the number of dairy farms from 21,000 in 1979-1980 to 6000 in 2010. National milk production has declined, the average age of dairy farmers is increasing and young people are not entering the industry.
Warrnambool-based dairy consultant Mike Hamblin told the meeting every farm he worked with would have a taxation loss this financial year. He said farmers’ debt levels were rising and many needed immediate help to keep paying their loans.
Mr Hamblin put forward a number of short-term responses, including blocking milk supplies to the supermarket “duopoly” of Coles and Woolworths and organising a protest with tractors outside the supermarkets.
He said that while the sale price of milk at the two supermarket chains was a small factor in the farm gate price that farmers received, it devalued the product.
He also proposed the provision of interest-free “survival” loans and grants and a consumer levy on white milk to be paid to dairy farmers.