The climate of fear and anger is palpable among those dairy farmers who supply Murray Goulburn and Fonterra in the wake of the companies’ move in the past fortnight to cut their farm gate milk prices.
Fonterra suppliers met with company representatives yesterday at Numurkah with many seeking answers to questions as to how the price cut will affect their livelihoods.
Without that information, many worry they won’t be able to make an informed decision about where they go to from here.
But as well as determining their individual futures, there are also farmers seeking answers to questions about the legality of the moves made by the dairy companies including the timing of cutting the milk price for the whole year.
Farmers at yesterday’s meeting referred to an acknowledgment made by Fonterra that the company held some responsibility for not lowering the price of milk sooner and a need to adjust its right mix of product.
But in urging farmers to hold out until 2020 for higher prices, Fonterra is asking for an enormous leap of faith on their part.
During the interim they will need to weather a tough period in terms of prices, on top of issues including the rising price of water and, before this week’s welcome rain, continued dry weather.
Little wonder many farmers are describing this latest blow as the potential end of the industry with few young people likely to look to dairy farming in their futures.
Right now, many farmers will have to give serious consideration to what they do next. Do they accept the company’s loan proposals and hope the future will bring better returns for their milk, or do they make a move to get out?
We would suggest that in some cases, neither will be a palatable option.
One thing for certain is the milk price cuts will have a flow-on effect far beyond the farm gate to many businesses in small and larger centres where these farmers, any staff and all their families would spend their money, whether on-farm or for personal reasons.
The July 2 election provides the perfect time for dairy farmers to draw attention to their plight from the nation’s leaders and seek some help.