Milk ‘strike’ motion fails at Victorian conference

By Dairy News

A SUGGESTION from northern Victorian dairy farmers that they should consider withholding their milk from processors due to poor farm gate prices, failed when put to the vote at the recent UDV annual conference.

UDV members from the Katunga-based No 3 Branch were disappointed but not that surprised when the motion failed to get up.

New UDV member Andrew Schult was critical of the conference for what he called shallow thinking and for not coming up with any solutions to the current dairy crisis.

The motion called for the UDV to establish an acceptable milk solids price and then seek legal advice on collectively organising a withdrawal of milk.

Some conference members believed the motion was calling for a “milk strike” and was too strong, but UDV member Bridget Goulding from Katunga said the motion called for legal advice first.

“I’m disappointed it did not at least get to the stage of getting legal advice.”

She acknowledged it was a strong resolution and said it had caused a huge amount of discussion at branch level.

“But something has to change because whatever is happening at the moment is not working.

“We’re really in trouble, here in the north.”

Andrew Schult spoke in favour of the motion and acknowledged it was confronting but said the battle had to start somewhere.

“I’ve been an advocate for these type of actions for years because I have been in the pork and beef industries as well.”

He said he was expecting more action from industry leaders, but could see no solutions offered at the conference.

Mr Schult said his view had come about over the years because he had been through a lot of the past attempts to do what this motion sets out to do.

“I can remember the bad old days when (Premier) John Cain, and farmers threatened to stop supply and he threatened farmers with going to jail, I have seen all this and felt that I had some experience in how to do this.

“A rejection of this motion sends a dangerous message to the processors and to the government that we are weak and a toothless tiger.

“If we don’t go with this, I just don’t see much future for dairy in Australia.”

Another branch member, Greg Brooks, said he had spoken to a young couple working on a farm, forced to take a job each off the farm.

“That should be ringing alarms bells, that that group of people are struggling in the industry.

“If we are not prepared to say where we think price should be …then that’s a perfect example of why the membership and people are disappearing.”

Referring to a presentation from Dairy Australia on marketing and improving the value of milk products, he said.

“We can improve its value and worth at the retail end, but someone can just simply take that back off us.

“Until we can get back some control at the farm gate we are in dire straits.”

One speaker against the motion said it was difficult to set an acceptable milk price with so many different businesses.

It was also difficult in an industry so influenced by international commodity prices.

Bernhard Lubitz from Leongatha, Gippsland, supported the motion and said it represented a cry for help.