Labor will act on milk floor price

By Country News

Labor leaders say it is not acceptable for farmers to be paid less than the cost of producing their milk, and will take action if they win this year’s federal election.

‘‘If a floor price is needed to end this crisis, that’s what Labor will deliver,’’ Opposition leader Bill Shorten and Shadow Agriculture Minister Joel Fitzgibbon said.

‘‘If Australia wants a thriving dairy industry, leaders must act.’’

They said a federal Labor government would task the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission with testing the efficacy of a minimum farm gate milk price.

‘‘Business as usual needs to end, and directing the ACCC to assess, test and design a floor price is an important first step in giving our dairy farmers a fair go.’’

Australian Dairy Farmers chief executive David Inall said the organisation held an urgent meeting on Thursday with Mr Fitzgibbon and Shadow Minister for Rural and Regional Australia Lisa Chesters.

‘‘We are committed to working constructively through this proposal because farmers are telling us that something must change to secure the future of the Australian dairy industry,’’ Mr Inall said.

‘‘We appreciate the recognition from the federal opposition and other stakeholders, but there are no immediate or simple solutions to address all problems afflicting farmers.’’

NSW Farmers Association dairy committee chair Erika Chesworth said the association looked forward to working with policy makers to make a minimum price happen.

‘‘The announcement of this proposal to set a minimum farm gate milk price from the federal Labor party clearly recognises that dairy farmers are operating in an environment of market failure and competition issues,’’ Ms Chesworth said.

But Committee for Greater Shepparton chief Sam Birrell said flagging a minimum milk price doesn’t address the real issue in dairy in the northern Victoria region.

‘‘It’s one thing for federal Labor to be talking about a mandatory minimum price,’’ Mr Birrell said.

‘‘But at the same time, they have a water spokesman talking about re-entering the market and buying back more water.

‘‘While price is important, the critical challenge for dairy in northern Victoria is the price of water.’’

Labor has also promised to establish a mandatory Dairy Code of Conduct if it is elected.