Dairy

Milk price and activism worry

By Country News

Although dominating the discussion, water was far from the only thing on the agenda at the recent Rural Issues Forum.

Dairy farmers in the room ensured they had their voices heard, with a rising divide between the city and the country and a spate of animal activist events also concerning those present.

The overall power imbalance across the industry needed to be addressed, according to Federal Member for Bendigo Lisa Chesters.

She pushed for Labor’s commitment to a milk price floor as one of the solutions.

‘‘Farmers are often forced to be price takers and often must accept prices well below the cost of production,’’ she said.

‘‘What we’ve been doing isn’t working, we have to try something new.’’

Rising energy prices saw Ms Chesters and Deputy Nationals leader Senator Bridget McKenzie enter a familiar debate that has arisen many times throughout the election campaign — the cost of doing nothing versus the cost of implementing Labor’s climate change policies.

‘‘We still don’t know how much your reckless targets will cost,’’ Senator McKenzie said.

‘‘We’re not forcing anyone, just encouraging them,’’ Ms Chesters responded.

Following a number of recent incursions on-farm following the publication of the AussieFarms map, VFF Pig Group president Tim Kingma said many were concerned about how the next federal government would protect the ‘‘right to be a farmer’’.

Senator McKenzie said it was ‘‘ridiculous’’ farmers were being forced to bargain with activists, trading them one animal to stop them from opening the gates and freeing them all.

‘‘We want to introduce up to 12 months’ jail for only inciting this stuff online ... It’s despicable and demonstrates the growing disconnect between the city and regional areas.’’

Animal welfare was one of the issues Ms Chesters said she had heard more about.

‘‘It’s putting people at risk and it’s putting biosecurity at risk.’’