MILK PROTEST: Tuncester dairy farmer Paul Weir with his wife Sharon and their children. If he doesn?t get more money for his mi
MILK PROTEST: Tuncester dairy farmer Paul Weir with his wife Sharon and their children. If he doesn?t get more money for his mi

Farmers don?t cry over spilt milk

By RACHEL AFFLICK rachel.afflick@northernstar.com.au

FED-UP dairy farmer Paul Weir says a national day of protest over milk prices is set to go ahead.

But in order to prevent processors from organising a back-up supply the date will be kept under wraps until the last possible moment.

On the day, which is planned for between mid-March to early April, Mr Weir is encouraging farmers to tip out their milk with the aim of creating a shortage of fresh milk on the supermarket shelves.

If farmers did not want to throw away their milk they could withhold it from processors instead.

The idea is to gain attention for the plight of struggling dairy farmers and to get the farm gate price for milk pushed up.

"Historically, March/April is the time when we have the shortest supply of milk in the country, so this is where we can make the biggest indent," said Mr Weir, who owns a 300 head dairy farm at Tuncester, near Lismore.

"Farmers aren't usually vigilantes but enough is enough."

Mr Weir said since going public with the idea for a national milk protest in January, support was growing from farmers as far away as Queensland and Victoria.

"At the end of the day, there has got to be a sustainable price for milk," Mr Weir said.

"I receive phone calls every second day from farmers who fully stand behind it."

Mr Weir said so far talks with major retailers had failed to yield results and there had been no moves on a sustainable price for milk as yet.

But something had to be done and soon. he said.

"I had one farmer last week saying enough was enough and wanting to sell his cows," Mr Weir said.

But Woodview dairy farmer Terry Toohey, who is also a New South Wales Farmers Dairy Committee representative, described the protest as a short- term solution only.

While he supported the principle behind it, he did not support the actual tipping out of milk.

"We're aiming to have a sustainable future for the industry. We don't want to hurt consumers by withholding milk from them," he said.

Instead, farmers should collaborate with processors and the food chain to bring about a more sustainable milk price.

According to a new accounting survey, North Coast dairy farmers had an average operating profit of just $160 per cow in the 2005/06 financial year.

NSW DPI Dairy and Livestock Officer Col Griffiths said to maintain a profitable business, the operating profit should be above $450 per cow.



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