Dairy farmers across Victoria are understandably upset and angry at decisions in the past fortnight by Murray Goulburn and Fonterra to slash the prices they pay for raw milk.
Many are considering a move to leave farming and sell their herds to the abattoir or switch to alternatives such as beef farming.
But there are others who don’t have an alternative option to milking for no return as they catch up with the whole year price reduction.
Murray Goulburn has reduced its farmgate price from an average $5.60 to $4.75 to $5. Fonterra followed last week, cutting its price from an average of $5.60 to $5.
Farmers are at a loss because the average price they are paid for the entire season is lowered, in many instances below the average quoted by the two companies so they can meet the new average prices.
There is concern particularly for the wellbeing of farmers forced to deal with what is a retrospective reduction in milk price and a move they have been powerless to control as price takers from the dairy companies.
Some of those The News spoke with yesterday said they were unaware the companies could take the step of cutting an entire year’s milk price.
They want changes to prevent this happening again.
But first, help must be immediately made available to those farmers who need to establish their financial situation in the wake of the farmgate price cut.
The Victorian Government’s Dairy Industry Taskforce last week announced plans to address the welfare of farmers and support regional communities feeling the impact of the cut.
Those plans need to be put into action as soon as possible because the price cut will hit farmers and communities hard and the implications will be felt for some time to come.
Many farmers, who have already dealt with the implications of their access to water under the Murray Darling Basin Plan and ongoing drought, may see this as the knockout blow.
Organisations and individuals that provide support to farmers need to come to the fore to show them the community regards their production as vital.
This community has done this before in showing its support for tomato growers and SPC.
The support agencies for the dairy sector also need to push for major processors to give an indication about next season’s opening milk price, in order to give farmers the confidence to continue producing milk and enable them to get their finances in order in the wake of this most shocking blow.
Only then will farmers have the means by which they can make decisions for their future and the future of their families.