DAIRYFARMERS are counting on consumers to show the might of people power by signing a petition that will see them earn an extra 10c for every litre of milk they produce.
The national campaign launched by the Queensland Dairyfarmers Organisation on Monday asked Australians to sign an online petition urging supermarkets to increase the price of milk by 10 cents/litre and for processors such as Parmalat, Norco and Lion to guarantee that the full 10 cents goes back to the farmers.
The campaign has quickly gained support from across the nation.
The Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud has thrown his support behind it.
Mr Littleproud said he could help facilitate the levy as a temporary measure while structural reform occurred in the industry. The money would go directly to farmers.
Processor Parmalat has also backed the move.
Its supply chain general manager Vince Houlihan advised QDO that Parmalat supported the drought levy and guaranteed that it would pass on the full amount back to its farmers.
Kerry, Qld, dairyfarmer Kay Tommerup said it was heartening that the community was now more aware of the effects of drought and willing to lend a hand to struggling farmers.
She said signing the petition would be a good way to let the supermarkets know people stood behind the dairyfarmers.
“It is more and more difficult to source quality feed for cows with this drought,” Ms Tommerup said.
“Unlike beef cows, which can be held with lower quality feed until the drought breaks, dairy cows need quality feed.
“I don’t think a few cents will make much difference to people buying milk but it will make a big difference to dairyfarmers.”
The QDO said the increasing scarcity and the price of freighting in fodder had hit the Queensland and New South Wales dairy industries hardest.
QDO reached out to Kyogle, NSW, dairyfarmer, Shane Hickey, whose social media post on being paid $2.46 per hour went viral with more than 4 million views and countless shares, to help drive awareness for the campaign.
QDO president Brian Tessmann said Mr Hickey had hit the nail on the head with his first viral video.
“People now get just how underpaid our farmers are and have shown that they want to do something to help,” he said.
“While Shane is not a Queenslander, he shares our sense of injustice and our drive to turn around the dairy industry and make things happen.
“For too long, we’ve hoped for the supermarkets and processors to do the right thing to ensure we have a sustainable dairy industry; but nothing has changed.”
Mr Littleproud said the supermarkets now needed to get on board.
“I’ve met with the two big supermarkets and Woolworths has shown leadership on this issue,” he said.
“They say they’re on board so long as other retailers are too.
“Coles is more reluctant but I hope they'll come on board. I intend to speak to ALDI and IGA/Metcash as well.”
Mr Littleproud said his department was currently investigating ways the temporary levy could be implemented.
“Woolworths and Coles are sensitive to the impact of 10 cents extra per litre of milk on family budgets, and I am too,” he said.
“Consumers need to understand the impact of having few Australian dairyfarmers north of the Victorian border would be much greater in the long term.
“Consumers have huge power here. All those who are outraged on social media would do more for Aussie farmers by paying a 10-cent levy than they do by sharing a video on Facebook.”
Mr Littleproud said it was time to support the farmers doing it tough.
“We all know many of our farmers are really struggling right now,” he said.
“The dairy sector, in particular, is having a tough time. Many of our farmers are being paid less than the cost of production. This is unsustainable.
“If our farmers don't make it through the tough times, they won't be there to supply Australia milk in the future.
“The fact is $1 milk has devalued the milk category in the eyes of consumers by making it cheaper than water.”
Mr Tessmann said the public support via donations to organisations such as Buy a Bale had helped many but had also had a detrimental effect, since those able to afford to buy it could no longer source feed.
"Also public support via donations is short lived and unsustainable," he said.
The QDO wants the 10 cent levy to apply not only to branded milk but $1/litre milk.
The petition can be found on change.org by searching 10 cent Drought Levy or via this link.