Www.coun­trynews.com.au Coun­try News, Farm­ers unit­ing to form co-op3

Shepparton News - Country News - - NEWS - By So­phie Bald­win

United We Stand farm­ers are in the process of legally form­ing their own co-op­er­a­tive af­ter re­ceiv­ing over­whelm­ing sup­port from the dairy­ing com­mu­nity.

The group has for­mally elected a com­mit­tee, which in­cludes chair Mar­shall Ja­cobs (Rochester), sec­re­tary Ch­eryl Hawken (Ba­mawm), spokesman Steve Hawken (Ba­mawm) and di­rec­tors Scott Somerville (Tim­mer­ing), Chris Gam­ble (Ba­mawm) and Dehne Vin­ni­combe (Calivil).

Mr Hawken said it was ev­i­dent from dis­cus­sions UWS has had with both pro­ces­sors and dairy farm­ers in the past three months, that the group needed to for­malise its po­si­tion.

‘‘We have had so much sup­port from the dairy farm­ing com­mu­nity but we now have to do our due dili­gence and for­malise things so we can be taken se­ri­ously,’’ he said.

‘‘This isn’t a fly-by-night thing — we are com­mit­ted to the fu­ture of the in­dus­try.

‘‘We are of­fer­ing a glim­mer of hope. We are not here for short­term gain — we are in this for the long-term and are set­ting our­selves up ac­cord­ingly.’’

Three months ago the group called for ex­pres­sions of in­ter­est from dairy sup­pli­ers in­ter­ested in pool­ing their milk, and the or­gan­is­ing com­mit­tee’s phones have not stopped ring­ing since.

Calls have been re­ceived from farm­ers right across the coun­try milking any­thing from 50 cows up to large herds.

UWS rep­re­sen­ta­tives have even spo­ken to a large group of farm­ers at Ko­rum­burra in south Gipp­s­land.

‘‘It has be­come ev­i­dent to us that it doesn’t mat­ter if you are milking 50 cows or 500, ev­ery­one has the same prob­lem and that is we need to be paid what our prod­uct is worth,’’ Mr Hawken said.

He said they had all had calls from farm­ers wor­ried about fi­nan­cially be­ing able to pay for the grain and hay they were cur­rently feed­ing their cows, let alone mak­ing it to the first ir­ri­ga­tion in spring.

He said milk vol­umes were in real dan­ger of de­creas­ing even fur­ther this year.

‘‘Pro­ces­sors should be­ware they may not get the milk vol­umes they are ex­pect­ing — es­pe­cially if con­di­tions stay the way they are, pro­duc­tion could be down 10 to 20 per cent.’’

Mr Hawken said the Mur­ray Goul­burn de­ba­cle in 2016 had been a real cat­a­lyst for change.

‘‘Pro­ces­sors in Aus­tralia have a proven his­tory of pay­ing their sup­pli­ers as lit­tle as pos­si­ble for as long as they can.

‘‘Shift­ing pro­ces­sors will not change the price but the hole in the fac­tory we leave be­hind will.

‘‘As farm­ers we need to re­mem­ber we do have some power — with­out milk go­ing through their stain­less steel, pro­ces­sors don’t have a busi­ness.’’

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