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Dairy giants under fire as Australian farmers get assistance

By Vanessa Brown at news.com.au

Victorian farmers are being forced off their farms after the price for milk solids were slashed by Fonterra and Murray Goulburn. Photo / File
Victorian farmers are being forced off their farms after the price for milk solids were slashed by Fonterra and Murray Goulburn. Photo / File

Struggling Australian dairy farmers will get government help but they say milk price security is the most important thing they need.

South Gippsland dairy farmer Tristan Zuidema said the government had "gone missing" since milk prices were dramatically slashed three weeks ago.

"They've only started coming out now because the public's started putting them under extreme pressure," Mr Zuidema said today.

Victorian farmers will be given counselling as part of a A$1.5 million assistance package and Mr Zuidema said milk producers New Zealand co-op Fonterra and Murray Goulburn should also front up to farmers.

"A lot of dairy farmers have not seen one single field officer since the announcement," he said.

"Is it that hard to just come out, check up on the farmers, have a cup of coffee and just say 'how are you doing?'?"

Murray Goulburn last month slashed milk solids prices from $5.60 a kilogram to between $4.75 and $5 a kilogram because of a global slump, with competitor Fonterra doing the same shortly after.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said a package of support for farmers would be announced in coming days, but Mr Zuidema said price certainty would give farmers the most relief.

"Security for the milk price above all, I think that's the biggest thing," Mr Zuidema said.

"I think the banks need to be a little bit understanding too."

Fonterra and Murray Goulburn slashed payouts to farmers. Photo / File
Fonterra and Murray Goulburn slashed payouts to farmers. Photo / File

ANZ has announced it will suspend repayments on loans - including credit cards - for up to three months, adjust lending limits, and waive certain fees for affected farmers.

Independent Senator Nick Xenophon called for stronger protections for dairy farmers against "abuses of market power", an inquiry into the industry and for the Commonwealth to use local milk powder in foreign aid.

Victorian teen Chloe Scott launched an online petition last week taking aim at the "greedy" milk companies she says are destroying farming families across Australia.

Worried about the future of her own farm, which is run by her "hard working" dad in Boorcan, west of Warrnambool, the 16-year-old launched her petition on Change.org to call on Australian Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce to assist in providing a better pricing system for farmers.

Her petition has received more than 135,000 signatures since launching on the May 9, 2016.

"We are suffering like every other farming family out there," Miss Scott said.

"I started the petition because the price cuts are affecting my family and everyone else out there who supply milk to these big corporations. I want people to know about the foods they are consuming, and how what they are buying affects people like my family."

Australian Minister for Agriculture Barnaby Joyce speaks has been called on to provided a better pricing system for farmers. Photo / Getty
Australian Minister for Agriculture Barnaby Joyce speaks has been called on to provided a better pricing system for farmers. Photo / Getty

Miss Scott revealed her dad now makes just "14 cents a litre" because of the big milk companies Fonterra and Murray Goulburn slashing the prices of how much they will pay for milk solids.

"For dad, it takes 38 cents a litre to make milk. Before the cuts, we were going get to 55 cents a litre. But they have now reduced it to 14 cents a litre," she said.

"So my dad, and all the other farmers are working at a loss for every litre they make.

"We have short term solutions, like counselling and loans, but its all still debt.

"I mean, you're losing money every time you go milking," she added.

While the teen admits the family farm is struggling with rising debts due to its payment contract with co-operative Fonterra, Chloe said the answer lays on Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce "to review the milk-pricing system" and stand up for farmers like her father.

"People are getting out of the industry, they are forced out," she said.

The Scotts have slashed their herd from 120 cows to 70 to cut costs as they continue the battle to keep the farm running. But not all farmer's have been able to continue in the industry in light of the recent events.

Victorian farmer Adam Nelson, was this week forced to shut down his dairy in Drouin South, Victoria.

The 26-year-old made the announcement on his Instagram and Facebook page, and urged other farmers to seek help, as the collapse of a farm takes an emotional toll.


"As farmers we have a responsibility and laws in place for the protection and welfare of our animals, but where are the same regulations for human beings?" Mr Nelson told The Herald Sun.

It is understood Mr Nelson had 80 head of cattle ­removed from his property over the weekend to avoid escalating costs.

Mr Nelson used his devastation to reach out and urge other farmers in a similar position to seek help, and not be afraid to ask for assistance.

While Chloe said her family haven't had to sell their dairy farm, she did acknowledge that her dad, who is usually a "happy kind of guy" had times where he is "disheartened or confused" when he goes to work on the farm some days.

Once Ms Scott's petition reaches 150,000 it will be delivered to Mr Joyce.

- additional reporting AAP

- news.com.au

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