WE need to unite to save dairy, KERRY CALLOW argues
The United Dairyfarmers of Victoria is well aware that times are tough.
Milk prices are low, the dollar is high and supermarkets are stripping back farmers' and processors' margins.
That's why we saw 600 frustrated dairy farmers and other industry people pack the Noorat footy club rooms at the Farmer Power meeting last month.
Many people talked of their battle to survive in the face of low milk prices and skyrocketing costs.
Some farmers are particularly vulnerable, having extended their borrowings, invested in more land, herds or dairy plant.
The Australian community can't afford to lose these farmers, not if we're going to be Asia's food bowl - as Prime Minister Julia Gillard keeps telling us.
It's obvious dairy farming families need immediate help. The question is what can the industry do and what form of financial assistance can state and federal governments deliver?
The simplest strategy is to deliver cash, interest-free or low-interest loans to farmers. But we need to also look at other options.
It may be worth asking the federal and state governments to underwrite early step-up payments for this season or even underwrite raising the cap on factory loans to farmers.
The dairy industry has every right to ask for financial assistance, given the billions state and federal governments have thrown at other industries.
The UDV and Victorian Farmers Federation have repeatedly highlighted the hypocrisy of governments pouring billions of dollars into propping up foreign-owned car makers, while dairy farmers survive on crumbs.
Dairying is Victoria's biggest export sector and I'd argue has a much more viable future than car manufacturing.
For 37 years the UDV has protected farmers' rights, battled to curb farmer costs, delivered help when needed and initiated reforms that have ensured we remain globally competitive.
We have to work together to find solutions to our problems, not fight among ourselves.
- Kerry Callow is president of the United Dairyfarmers of Victoria