Dairy farmers form new co-op

By Sophie Baldwin

A group of concerned farmers, formerly known as United We Stand, has formalised its commitment to the dairy industry and established a new co-operative — Eureka Dairy Co-op.

The co-op has been approved by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, which gives it the legal governance required to move forward with its goal of developing a sustainable milk price for the future of the industry.

More than 50 farmers with a milk pool of about 140 million litres are interested in becoming active members and the co-op is in the process of establishing a member’s card to provide discounts for services for both business and personal use.

The five directors are all northern Victorian dairy farmers and include Marshall Jacobs (chairman) from Rochester; Cheryl Hawken (secretary/treasurer) from Echuca; Scott Sommerville from Timmering; Chris Gamble from Bawawm; and interim director and spokesman Steve Hawken.

Mr Hawken said while the group had appeared to be quiet, there had been a lot of work going on behind the scenes.

‘‘We have spent the last few months sorting out all the legal requirements and are now in a position to move forward,’’ he said.

‘‘We remain in active discussions with processors both big and small, including a couple of niche processors who have approached us recently and we are confident there will be some action in this space after Christmas.

‘‘We are currently building a network of farmers and are happy to hear from anyone interested in joining us, regardless of how many cows you milk.

‘‘The only requirement is milk must be premium, although we do have avenues to help farmers who are experiencing cell count issues.’’

He said the co-op had never lost sight of its initial goal, which had always been to receive a fair and sustainable milk price.

Mr Sommerville said even what he would call the ‘‘traditionally positive farmers’’ were now feeling the pinch.

‘‘The industry is in a real mess,’’ he said.

‘‘The tables have turned. In the old days tanker drivers wanted to be dairy farmers, now dairy farmers want to be tanker drivers.’’

The member’s card has already had interest from retailers, including a dairy chemical company offering services and discounts and a livestock processor.

The co-op is exploring other opportunities including power, fertiliser and insurance, and hopes local businesses like hairdressers and cafes will jump on board.

■For more information, phone Eureka Dairy on 0456 741 517 or email: admin@eurekadairy.com.au