20 May, 2016: Letter to the Minister for Primary Industries and Water
Minister Jeremy Rockliff MP
Dear Minister, I know that you are well aware of the challenges that dairy farmers are currently facing. I also appreciate your recent comments regarding the dairy industry and applaud the coordinated response from industry and government in understanding the implications to respond immediately to ensure that the dairy farmers, their workers and their families have a secure future.
Unprecedented circumstances have conspired to place the very viability of many of our farmers and their enterprises in direct jeopardy.
Drought, declining market demand (deregulation of the EU countries/flooded stockpiles), and the highly contentious behaviour of milk processing companies has left many farmers in dire straits - financially and personally. In recent days we have also seen very heavy rainfalls in some areas of the State, particularly the North West, adding to the day-to-day challenges facing dairy and other farmers at the moment. The flow-on effects in the Tasmanian economy have the potential to be serious.
having grown up on a dairy farm, I acknowledge dairy farmers operate in a global environment and they are exposed to seasonal, market volatility. It is pleasing to note that the ACCC - the competition watch-dog, will investigate milk processors over recent shock cuts to farm gate prices, to consider whether the changes have involved misleading conduct or whether there are elements of unconscionable conduct.
I ask that the Tasmanian Government work closely with our local dairy industry, affected stakeholders, and the Australian Government to provide targeted immediate relief measures to assist our farmers and their families during this very challenging time.
The dairy industry is an significant player in, and contributor to, the Tasmanian economy, has large export earnings, and is one of the key industries identified as a growth river in the current and future State economy. This industry, and those involved in it, know and appreciate the nature of the challenges agricultural businesses face and generally seek to prepare for the inevitable peaks and troughs industries involved in commodity markets face. At times such as dairy farmeers are currently facing, targeted support is required to ensure the short and long term sustainablility of this important industry.
As i am sure you are aware, attracting future investment and a dynamic workforce will be made all the more difficult without appropriate support for our current farmers and their families. I stand ready to assist in any way possible, and I know that you will do everything you can to relieve this significant challenge and burden facing so many of our farmers - most of which are beyond their control.
I look forward to your further action and advice in this matter.
Hon Ruth Forrest MLC
Independent member for Murchison