MG crisis: dairy farmers reeling

DAIRY farmers in the local area will be heavily affected by milk co-operative Murray Goulburn’s decision to drastically cut milk prices, with managing director Gary Helou stepping down and the share price plummeting.

United Dairyfarmers Victoria president Adam Jenkins said that the priority for farmers should be to support each other, take a step back from the news, and seek expert advice.

“We’re disappointed, and we’re talking to all the farmers and banks,” he said.

“UDV are very cognisant of the human exposure, the mental health issues, so we’re asking everyone to look after their neighbours and friends.

“We’re calling on industry to make sure there’s better oversight across all companies to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

“You can be angry for a bit but what’s done is done.”

Won Wron farmer, Paul Mumford, said he was looking at the whole situation, which will affect every farm differently.

“I’m making a decision on Friday about closing early (on one farm), but my home farm I’m mixed spring and autumn calving, and I’m already locked in,” he said.

“The milk prices will affect the business substantially, to the order of maybe $30,000.”

Mr Mumford attended a meeting in Yarram on Wednesday night, and said that the mood was calm.

“There were about 120 people there,” he said.

“In my opinion, they were past the shock period and wanted more information and clarity.

“If you’re a spring calving herd operation, you’re practically at the end of your season now, so the prices won’t affect them as much, you may look at closing the door on the season early (to grow for next year).”

While he said that his options included reducing his stock and looking at overheads, he said that some people would leave the industry.

“May and June milk prices have dropped by what will be around 33 cents, it’s going to have a huge impact on stocking rates for dairy farmers,” he said.

The Australian Dairy Farmers president, Simone Jolliffe, said the situation is particularly troubling during a time when farmers were already experiencing hardship. 

“Many farmers are already experiencing a challenging season due to dry conditions — market volatility adds to the already difficult task of managing and budgeting through such a period. This announcement will significantly damage confidence and potential investments in the dairy industry,” she said. 

“ADF will continue to talk to processors to understand the full impact of this announcement on the industry as a whole. We will also continue to urge them to communicate with their suppliers and explain any changes.

“Within the industry there are resources, including Dairy Australia’s Tactics for Tight Times and work being applied to help dairy farmers confront this challenge. We are working in partnership across the industry to support Australian dairy farmers in their decision making and cope with the challenges ahead.”

A major concern from all bodies involved has been mental health and anxiety, and farmers who may be undergoing stress are encouraged to reach out for support.

Several helplines are available, including beyondblue on 1300 22 4636 and Lifeline on 13 11 14 or www.lifeline.org.au.