Senator vows to fight for Queensland dairy farmers
DAIRY farmers in the Sunshine Coast are concerned they might be flooded with cheap milk from southern competitors after milk giants Fonterra and Murray Goulbourn slashed prices.
The large-scale milk producers made headlines over the past two weeks after announcing they would slash to below production price the amount they were willing to pay farmers for milk.
What milk do you buy?
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The decision saw a number of dairy farmers in southern states decide to give up farming, including former reality TV star on The Farmer Wants a Wife, Adam Nelson.
Dairy farmers from around Queensland converged at Maleny Dairies on Wednesday to discuss issues including the implications of the recent price drop in Victoria.
They were joined by independent senator Glenn Lazarus who vowed to "take up the fight for Queensland dairy farmers".
While the eight local farms supplying raw milk to Maleny Dairies were well "insulated" from the milk giants' price drop, those who supplied large producers were worried, owner Ross Hopper said.
"With what they're doing down south, it could definitely have an effect on local farmers up this way, with Victorian farmers sending more milk...because they're selling it cheaply," he said.
"That's why we built our own dairy factory - to insulate ourselves from the big processors telling us what they're going to pay for milk."
Queensland Dairyfarmers' Organisation head Eric Danzi said some independent senators, including Mr Lazarus, and National Party leader Barnaby Joyce had been supportive of his organisation's proposal to amend legislation to make it harder for milk giants to act in an anti-competitive way.
"In current legislation you have to show there's an intent by a particular supermarket to act in an anti-competitive way," he said. "If we're successful it'll just about whether we're affected.
"That's the key issue and we hope that whatever happens at the federal election, there's still support to get that through."
Mr Lazarus said he enjoyed his time in "beautiful" Maleny.
"I've always been a big fan of the dairy industry," he said. "One of the first things I did as a senator was to drive to Warwick and talk to a group of dairy farmers."
Mr Lazarus said his main purpose in attending the workshop of more than 50 diary farmers was to "listen and learn", but the prevalence of "$1 milk" and the need for tighter legislation to stop anti-competitive behaviour in the milk production industry were issues clearly needing urgent action at the federal level.
As the Federal Government considers an assistance package for the dairy industry, Mr Lazarus said he felt the public would be in favour of a consumer levy on milk sales. While some farmer advocates have called for a 50 cents per litre levy, Mr Lazarus nominated 10 cents as an appropriate amount.
"I think Australia as a whole would be happy to pay 10 cents a litre for it," he said.
"I don't think they would mind if it would go to the farmer and not Coles and Woolies and the processor's pocket."
Maleny Dairies was a "shining example" of a successful niche producer, Mr Danzi√ said. The factory takes two semi-trailer loads of raw milk from eight farms every day and its milk, yoghurt and cream are sold at Coles, IGA, local cafes and independent grocers.