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Independent demands urgent support for the dairy Industry

Since my first meeting with the dairy board in 2006, my continued lobbying for reforms has fallen on deaf ears.

Up until 1999, our dairy industry was regulated to ensure farm gate prices were adequate to ensure survival of this important primary production industry.

With the adoption of United Nations directives in or around the same time, such protections became second place to the international ideal of free trade and what was inadequately described as a level playing field.

The government did make moves to help overcome the expected losses of opening up the industry by placing 11 cents per litre levy on the retail price of milk, to ensure our dairy industry could make it through the transition.

The levy was then shared in an equitable manner with the industry across the board.

When these protections ended, so did the viability of the dairy industry, for a variety of reasons, and while our industry was failing other country’s governments stepped in to support their own, while our government turned a blind eye.

At the very same time this supporting levy stopped, we faced a drought; this in turn had a massive affect on the dairy industry, while the price per litre at the farm gate fell in some case below the price of production, the cost of production rose.

Feed stock had to be shipped in, and the costs of feeding the stock rose, and the government appeared to be deaf to the calls for support.

The number of dairy farms on a national basis has fallen by two-thirds over the last three decades from 22,300 in 1982 to just below 6,770 in mid-2012, while the number of consumers has grown at a huge rate, so the protection of the Industry is long overdue and not the only issue, because huge growth is needed.

Under current conditions, those left in the dairy industry are surviving, but they are not posting enough profits to ensure their future viability. What makes this situation a disgrace is that it is all over a few cents a litre at the farm gate, and every Australian consumer would be more than happy to ensure the industries survival, so how do we achieve just that?

I am sure the Industry groups may argue that the present income is ample to ensure survival, but how long will this last, keeping in mind the massive losses in recent years are not being replaced at the current income levels.

The government needs to at least come up with an assistance package to give immediate financial relief for all dairy farmers. They also need to legislate to re-introduce a levy to be collected from all domestic milk sales which will be directly distributed to dairy farmers to increase their viability and decrease the variability of export price returns.

In SA and indeed on a national basis, approximately 25% of milk production goes into drinking milk. So for example a 20 cent per litre levy would return 5 cents/litre across all milk to each farmer. (Other domestic dairy products could also be included.) It would however need to be paid to each farmer according to their farm production, no matter which processor they supply.

The government must step up and ensure not only the survival of the Dairy industry, but to ensure it is viable for more farms to be opened, and that is not achieved by keeping their heads in the sand.

Either regulate the grocery industry to ensure the growth and survival of our entire primary production industry, or revisit the security of the levy system now! There is no need for talk fests or further debate it is simply time to act in the best interests of the nation.

Mark Aldridge

Independent Federal candidate for Wakefield S.A.

82847482 / 0403379500

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