TO give our dairy farmers a fair go the industry needs re-regulation not deregulation.
That is the word from Senator Glenn Lazarus as the former Ipswich Jets coach makes sustainable dairy farming one of his key campaign platforms for the upcoming Senate election.
Senator Lazarus said there had been a lot of talk about helping dairy farmers but that action was needed, including a code of conduct to establish a minimum price for milk and the reinstitution of a Milk Board to represent farmers interests.
"The problem is allowing major supermarkets to sell $1 milk," Senator Lazarus told the QT.
"The processor buys the milk off the farmer and supplies it to the supermarkets, and of course the processor wants to make a profit. They are buying the milk for sometimes less than what the farmers can produce it for.
"There needs to be a code of conduct put in place that establishes a minimum price for milk so the farmer can continue to operate and expand if he wants to. The problem is that the gap between supply and demand is dropping dramatically.
"We now rely on 180 million litres of milk to come from down south and we have 400 dairy farmers left in this state when before the year 2000 we had 1600.
"Farmers work extremely hard and provide a wonderful product and are not getting paid enough.
"We also need a Milk Board so they can represent the farmers with their issues and concerns."
Mr Lazarus said the key to sustaining the industry in future was "setting a minimum price that everyone can agree on, so that everyone is getting something out of it".
"But now down south they are not going to get the money forecast so they are making the dairy farmer pay by buying their milk for 14 cents a litre for a couple of months to make up the shortfall," he said.
"It is horrendous the way we treat them.
"All the government is doing is providing these loans, so the farmer has to go into more debt to survive and the farmer has to adjust - not the processor, the supermarket or the government. All the onus has been on the farmer to carry the bag."
Mr Lazarus said if the trend continues Queensland would be bereft of dairy farms "and we'll have to rely on milk from down south".
"But in saying that Maleny Dairies and 4Real Milk Scenic Rim pay a bit more.
"Maleny has 11 dairy farms and eight of those supply Maleny Dairies which pays the farmers more. They have to charge a bit more but it means those eight dairy farmers will continue to operate because they are getting a fair price.
"But the government needs to make a decision whether they want Queensland dairy farmers or not, because they can't keep going the way it is."
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