Dairy farmers to use their vote in protest
In the dairy farming district of Simpson, near Colac, the bruises of this year’s savage dairy cuts still have not yet faded, and farmers say they plan to take out their frustrations with the major parties at the ballot box.
It has been months since dairy giants Murray Goulburn and Fonterra announced that they would drastically reduce the milk price, which resulted in farmers being saddled with huge debts and the prospect of collapse.
In the dairy farming districts of Deans Marsh and Simpson in Victoria, the impact on farmers has continued to be felt.
Farmers from those areas are asking for a Royal Commission into the dairy industry, which they say has long deceived them.
Australia’s largest processor, Murray Goulburn, said it was no longer feasible to pay the current price because of the exchange rate and lower than expected milk powder sales in China.
Alex Robertson, who represents the advocacy group Farmer Power, said the feeling among dairy farmers was that if the Coalition and Labor were not going to listen to them, “we’re not going to vote for them.”
Mr Robertson was left $300,000 in debt when the price of milk was reduced by Murray Goulburn and Fonterra, and he said he blamed the industry.
“We were misled not just by factories, we were misled by our industry reps,” he said.
“We need a full inquiry into what’s going on in the industry and why farmers are being short changed all the time.
“I would prefer a Royal Commission than an inquiry.”
Dollar milk is killing the industry: dairy farmer
Robert Methven’s dairy farm produces 12,000 litres a day. He said the reduction in prices had left him “feeling sick.”
“You’re producing it [milk], put it into the vat and it’s really not going to pay all the bills.”
While most people were starting high school, Mr Methven was at work on the farm, and after 19 years with Murray Goulburn, he severed ties with the company and moved to Warrnambool Cheese and Butter.
“It’s crucifying this industry because that’s a dollar milk, and you think ‘the one beside it is maybe two dollars or a dollar fifty, I’ll go for the dollar because you know, that bloke’s making more money than this bloke’,” he said.
“But that’s not true. That dollar milk is killing the industry and killing the farmer.”
Mr Methven said he wanted more government intervention and that there needed to be a floor price for milk.
While Simpson had always voted Liberal, everything was now on the table in this election, said Mr Methven.
Mr Methven said when he spoke with his friends, most of them had talked about voting independent.
“Because we’ve got nothing out of either government, they’ve told us porkies and give us loans — but we don’t want a loan, we want a decent price,” he said.
“They put window dressing up and say we’re looking after the farmer, but they’re not. They’re just vote catching.”