It is as clear as the skies above drought-stricken Australia, that Coles’ publicity stunt to put the 10-cent levy on a single line of its private label milk is a slap in the face to our farmers. Because they have not put the levy on all brands and all sizes, the amount coming back would be a fraction of a cent.
That’s bad enough, but what makes it worse is their announcement that they would deliver the pittance that would be collected back through the NFF as opposed to using the correct protocol which would be to pay it directly to their suppliers, such as Norco, who could then simply pass it on to its members by way of their milk check.
The NFF has not made any public statement as to why it agreed to be part of Coles’ misleading scheme but as the national advocacy body that’s supposed to represent all farmers, it makes you wonder exactly who is in control and where all our national primary industry advocacy is heading.
This week, I was on a young QDO member’s family farm just south of Toowoomba to launch the new Queensland dairy farmers’ campaign, The Cream of Australia. We had a half dozen additional young farmers join the launch to allow the media to ask what they think of their futures in dairy.
I hate to say it, but the interviews were bleak. Not one of them could honestly say whether they would be operational in two years or even 12 months’ time because of the drought and the unsustainable price paid for milk. These weren’t the old farmers who are ready to hang up their boots; these were farmers in their 20s and 30s who are giving up hope.
You can talk about the real responsibilities of the processors in the situation we are faced with but we need to remember they are in the middle and are the first to be bullied by the supermarkets.
But no matter who in the value chain is most to blame for farmers’ low prices, the fact is the 10 cent levy was above that issue and every one else was on board except Coles. So as farmers and as consumers who shop, we need to stand up to the bullies. We need to say to Coles – we’ve had enough.