FIGHT FOR SURVIVAL: Cedar Pocket dairy farmer Rod Thefs says a 10c per litre drought levy on milk would make a huge difference.
FIGHT FOR SURVIVAL: Cedar Pocket dairy farmer Rod Thefs says a 10c per litre drought levy on milk would make a huge difference. Scott Kovacevic

'Enough is enough': Gympie farmers back 10c milk levy

A PUSH to introduce a national 10c per litre Drought Levy on milk has been cheered on by Gympie's dairy farmers who fear that without change the industry will dry up.

The Queensland Dairyfarmers Organisation launched the petition to relieve the pressure on the dairy industry, which it said "faces a tougher challenge than most" as a result of the drought.

Sexton farmer Andrew Burnett said the call did not come a moment too soon.

"Enough is enough. It's just not sustainable," he said.


Andrew Burnett
SKIMMING CLOSE TO DISASTER: Sexton dairy farmer Andrew Burnett supports the push for a 10c a litre drought levy on milk to keep the industry "sustainable''.

The petition for the levy has already attracted more than 27,000 signatures in the week since it was launched, as well as support from the Federal Government and Parmalat.

Mr Burnett said that while the levy was a good idea to help manage the ever-tightening budget, consumers had to stop taking milk "for granted".

"Consumers have to realise that milk is not a cheap product,'' he said.

"Milk is a fresh daily product.

"We just can't be that flippant."

Mr Burnett stressed that the levy needed to apply to all milk products in all shops to be effective. However he said that was not the only big shift needed. Consumers had to understand just how far the industry and farmers were being left behind.


Cedar Pocket dairy farmer Rod Thefs at his property.
Rod Thefs. Scott Kovacevic

He said every year people had a wage rise, even if it was small, and every year costs like insurance rose too, yet the price of milk went unchanged.

Cedar Pocket dairy farmer Rod Thefs agreed a shift was needed.

"People have to realise it just doesn't appear on a shelf," he said.

"The industry is just going to keep spiralling down, until suddenly there won't be any milk. There will be a shortage and people will end up having to pay $5 a litre, or $9 a litre.

"Ten cents would make a hell of a difference to whether we'd stay viable or not."

While he appreciated people were always concerned about their own bottom lines, Mr Thefs said there was precedent when it came to how people viewed necessities.


Dairy cow at the Camerons property Lagoon pocket.
Farmers want people to understand that milk just doesn't appear in a bottle on a shelf by itself. Renee Albrecht

"People still buy fuel and it's $1.40... they don't bat an eyelid if they need a full tank of fuel," he said.

He said the drought had pushed grain prices skyward in the past year. Where he was once paying about $360 a tonne he now had to fork out about $520.

"We can go on grass but we'd only be on half the production," Mr Thefs said.

"What we're paying for grain is basically taking all our profit.

"There's nothing left."

Farmers were also being squeezed by the $1 a litre milk even though they were selling to branded companies, he said.

"They (branded companies) just say 'we can't give you any more because we've got to compete'."

Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said if retailers were on board with the levy he would be happy to help "facilitate it as a temporary measure while structural reform happens in the industry".


Agriculture Minister David Littleproud outlines budget initiatives to benefit the regions cane growers. With Member for Dawson George Christensen and Canegrowers Queensland chairman Paul Schembri.
Agriculture Minister David Littleproud. Stuart Quinn

"Many of our farmers are being paid less than the cost of production," he said.

"This is unsustainable.

"If our farmers don't make it through the tough times, they won't be there to supply Australia milk in the future."