When capitalism goes crazy, people get hurt. Milk wars between Woolworths and Coles in Australia are ruining people’s lives. Here is a letter from a dairy farmer, Judy.
I feel deeply compelled to write to you all about an issue that makes me incredibly sad and angry. Homebrand milk is literally driving dairy farmers around the country BROKE, OUT OF BUSINESS.
For an excellent 5 minute snapshot of why $1/L milk hurts dairy farmers, please watch this story from today’s edition of ABC Landline. I beg of you to take 5 minutes to watch this story. Listen carefully to the reasons why cheap milk is killing farming businesses & milk processors.
http://www.abc.net.au/iview/#/view/989906 (this will take you to the start of Landline on ABC IVIEW. Just skip ahead to 24 minutes into the show and the ‘Down Down’ story about the dairy industry will start).
The biggest issue with cheap milk is that is creates a perception that that is what milk is worth – that $1/L is the actual real cost of making milk, processing it and transporting it to stores. Whereas in fact, $1/L is not a real price. It is LESS THAN MILK CAN BE PRODUCED FOR. Dairy farmers are losing money on every litre of milk they produce at current prices. While it may make consumers feel good to be saving a few cents on their weekly grocery bill, in the long run it is doing irrevocable harm to Australia’s dairy industry. The scary thing is, that without dairy farmers, we won’t be able to buy fresh milk at the shops. If we as consumers want to be buying fresh milk (ie milk that was taken from a cow within the last few days, hopefully somewhere near where you live) we need to have dairy farmers. The alternative to fresh milk is dried milk, or maybe some form of rehydrated milk made from dried milk. At the current rate of exit of farmers from the dairy industry, in five years time there won’t be many left. Already, WA and QLD are TRUCKING milk from Victoria because of milk shortages. That’s right, QLD is short of milk so we have to get it from Victoria!!! Yet, my cousin and my good friend have been driven out of dairy farming in QLD because they aren’t being paid what it costs them to produce milk.
I have personally seen the impact of low milk prices. My cousin was a third generation dairy farmer who has now closed his dairy because he cannot keep farming at a loss. A good friend of mine is a third generation dairy farmer who has THIS WEEK sold his cows because, based on the forecast milk prices he will be paid this coming season he, his wife and their three children will LOSE $200 000/year (the same amount as the farmer interviewed in the ABC story) if they keep milking cows. He once had 5 people working for him, they are now unemployed, plus a farming family now has no income & a significant loan to service. My friend believes there will be a mass exodus of dairy farmers by early to mid next year once the next season milk prices are formally announced. Those farmers that stay in dairy farming will be either: going further into debt to survive, working off-farm to support the farm business, cutting staff, reducing costs (which means poorer quality feed, less vet visits, less antibiotics for cows etc etc) or, all of the above.
Have you ever been to a dairy farm at milking time? I spent many of my school holidays as a kid milking cows and I can tell you it is not a pleasant job to slop around in cold water, cow poo and milk at 5 am in the morning. This is done twice a day, 365 days/year. It is always a crying shame when we lose any farmer because he’s not being paid properly for his product but it’s even worse when it’s a dairy farmer because it’s such a difficult job and it’s a miracle we’ve got any people willing to do it in the first place! We can’t afford to lose anymore! Australia is heading for a milk shortage in the future and we will struggle to find people willing to do this work. We cannot keep underpaying farmers or we will all be using powdered milk in our coffee or paying ridiculous prices for fresh milk.
I beg of you to watch the Landline story above, and, if you’re feeling extra concerned, watch the story below about WA’s milk industry and see a retiring dairy farmer crying on national TV about what’s happening to the industry and the fact that his sons can’t farm because it’s unviable (http://www.abc.net.au/landline/content/2012/s3536466.htm).
Take action – don’t buy $1/L milk, please. Send a message to the big supermarkets that you don’t tolerate raping Australian agriculture for the sake of a marketing ploy. If you can, buy milk from small local companies so you know your milk is grown locally and fresh (not trucked from Victoria), but at least, buy branded milk eg Dairy Farmers, Pauls etc so that at least your dollar is telling the big supermarkets that you don’t want Aussie farmers to be paid less than cost of production for their milk. The next time someone asks you to donate money to cancer research or some other noble sounding cause tell them you can’t afford to donate because you buy the more expensive milk, because you value Australian dairy farmers and you value fresh milk for your kids.
If this issue concerns you too, please take the time to pass this email on to your friends and family.
Thank you for your time,