If you have eyes, ears or a Facebook page then you have probably heard about the current crisis facing our dairy farmers.
To summarise, the two major dairy companies, Murray Goulburn and Fonterra, have decided to cut the price they are willing to pay for a kilo of milk solid from $5.60, to a number between $4.75 and $5.00. This becomes a problem when it actually costs $5.00 to make that kilo. This means that farmers will be paid $0.37 for a litre of milk that costs $0.38 to produce.
The dairy companies are basically saying that they’ve been overpaying these farmers from July last year until the cuts three weeks ago, and now these farmers suddenly owe the companies massive debts, the average reportedly being $120,000!
What’s more, is that the cuts are being spread over the financial year, so it may look like a cut of 1 cent, but in reality, for the next two months, farmers will be paid around $0.14 per litre of milk.
So, what is being done? And what can we do? Barnaby Joyce is being called upon to do something, but A) he’s Barnaby ‘No-hope’ Joyce and B) we are only a few months away from the election so little is likely to be done there. The milk levy, of an additional $0.50 to every bottle of milk, has been hailed by some as far fetched.
Really, the most the government can do at this time is to offer aid to the farmers who are on the way to losing everything they have. However, looking at the government’s treatment of farmers in recent years, it is extremely unlikely that any aid will get to them at all.
What we can all do is to buy more dairy with a brand name. I know that being a poor student often means buying the tasteless $1 a litre Woolworths brand milk, because that extra $0.50 needs to go to the goon budget. But how about we collectively go the extra mile, and buy an Aussie name brand when we buy our dairy? Dairy Farmers only costs around $0.50 more when you buy the two litre bottle, and I know it is only stinginess stopping a lot of us from spending that little bit extra. We might actually be really helping people if we go the brand name route, instead of buying home brand. So for those of us that can, we definitely should.
Now I know that this whole scenario is very easy to dismiss as dairy companies trying to get more money, but it’s very simply not. Dairy farmers, and in fact, all farmers need to be looked after. They are the backbone of our economy, and always have been, and due to drought, frequent changes in export laws, the changeability of the industry as a whole, and big corporations taking more control than they should,
our agricultural industry often gets left behind, mistreated and forgotten. This leaves farmers in a very vulnerable state indeed.
Aid is almost impossible to come by, from the government or anywhere else, and suicide is extremely high amongst farmers, and you can’t blame any of them. The lack of support for farmers often means the loss of farms that have been in families for countless generations, getting passed from parent to child, and owned within the family exclusively. Can you imagine being a seventh generation farmer and being the one to lose your farm to the bank or an overseas investor because your government, industry and consumers have let you down? The shame, especially amongst men, is often what leads them to suicidal thoughts or at very least depression.
It is far too common that those of us that have very little to do with the agricultural industry tend to dismiss the plight of farmers, either thinking that it has nothing to do with us, or condemning the industry as cruel and unnecessary. Well, we need to wake up and get educated. Farmers are killing themselves, families can’t afford to live, and if we don’t support livestock farmers, the alternative is often livestock dying of starvation. We need to care. Support our agricultural industry, support our farmers. They need us.