South-west farmers ready to meet minister

THE dairy farmer activist group Farmer Power will meet today  with federal agriculture minister Joe Ludwig in Melbourne to put the case for government assistance for struggling dairy farmers.

Farmer Power representatives Chris Gleeson and Karrinjeet Singh-Mahil will today join representatives of the Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) and the United Dairyfarmers of Victoria (UDV) at the meeting to ask Mr Ludwig for help in easing the crisis in the dairy industry.

VFF spokesman Peter Hunt said the Melbourne meeting would discuss the challenges facing the dairy industry including milk prices.

Mr Gleeson said today’s meeting at the VFF headquarters in Collins Street was arranged after Farmer Power met with VFF and UDV representatives in Koroit last month.

The Koroit meeting had resolved to lobby Mr Ludwig for government assistance to help farmers recover from the economic drought in the dairy industry.

Up to 20 per cent of dairy farmers could leave the industry unless government assistance was provided, Mr Gleeson said.

The dairy industry representatives will also press Mr Ludwig to overcome the tariff hurdles for exports to China and South Korea and to block imports of subsidised cheese. 

Farmer Power called on Australian exporters to unite to put pressure on the Reserve Bank to bring down the value of the Australian dollar, Mr Gleeson said. The high value of the dollar has been a disincentive for overseas countries to buy Australian exports and it has been a factor in the low farm gate milk price.

Meanwhile, Farmer Power representatives met on Wednesday with Warrnambool Cheese and Butter Factory (WCB) chief executive officer David Lord and Murray Goulburn Co-operative managing director Gary Helou.

Mr Gleeson said Farmer Power wanted the milk co-operatives to work harder with farmers to make the industry better.

He said Mr Lord had given Farmer Power a letter of support to take to today’s meeting with Mr Ludwig.

Fellow Farmer Power representative Jock O’Keefe said the group had told Warrnambool Cheese and Butter that many suppliers wanted an end to loyalty payments.

Mr O’Keefe said he believed loyalty payments were a penalty rather than a reward.

Under the loyalty payment system, milk processors took money away from dairy farmers if they switched to another processor, he said.


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