Dairy farmers in Far North Queensland have joined the chorus of those demanding a fair price be paid for their milk.
Millaa Millaa farmer James Geraghty purchased his farm with his parents in 1981 and has a dairy herd of about 230 Fresians.
But like so many in the industry, Mr Geraghty is struggling to maintain a viable business amid soaring production costs and low prices.
Mr Geraghty said while farmers benefited when generic supermarket brand milk increased in price by 10c a litre, further increases had not been passed on and a levy on branded milk had not been established.
"The initial concept put up quite some time ago was for 10c a litre to be put on all milk," Mr Geraghty said.
"We were getting the entire 10c on the generic milk and the lobby lasted three or four months, which was appreciated by the farmers.
"But they've bumped it up and the second 10c isn't being passed on at all, branded milk is not included, so we're only receiving about 3.5c a litre on total production."
Mr Geraghty said it had been a tough season on the Tablelands, with weather conditions contributing to the difficulties.
"From mid December to the end of June it didn't stop raining and now it's hardly raining at all.
"Everything we use had to be freighted in, we have very little feed and cotton seed is twice what we paid last year. It's pretty tough everywhere at the moment, and production is well down."
Hill MP Shane Knuth this month put a motion before state parliament calling for the full 10 cents a litre to be passed on to the dairy farmers, saying it was vital for the industry's survival.
The Katter's Australian Party member has long been an advocate for the dairy industry, having unsuccessfully introduced a Fair Milk Logo Scheme into Queensland parliament, which would enable processors to put a logo on bottles to indicate they had paid farmers a fair price for milk.
Mr Knuth said there were now only 53 dairy farmers remaining on the Atherton Tablelands down from 270 prior to deregulation. Throughout Queensland only 340 dairy farmers remain, down from over 1500 in 2000.
"The Queensland dairy industry is in dire straits," Mr Knuth said.
"If the current trend continues, this once proud and booming industry will cease to exist in the year 2028.
"We've had many complaints from dairy farmers in deep trouble, they're now to the point where they are borrowing money to pay their bills."
Mr Knuth said while milk prices had increased for consumers, the promised full 10c a litre was not being passed on.
"There has been a lot of back slapping with the major retailers and federal agricultural minister sending a misleading message that the 10 cents a litre milk increase is going directly to the farmer. This is only on the supermarket branded milk and not all the other brands," Mr Knuth said.
"However, the reality is out of the 10 cent increase, dairy farmers in North Queensland are only receiving two cents. To top it off - further adding insult to injury - the supermarket giants again increased their milk with another 10 cents, and still nothing is going back to the dairy farmer.
"To put it in perspective there has been 20 cents a litre milk increase in the supermarkets -and yet only two cents is going back to North Queensland dairy farmers."
Mr Knuth said a full 10 cents a litre to the farmers was the original intent after the Queensland Dairy Organisation launched a petition signed by 140,000 constituents supporting 10 cents increase to help save the dairy industry.
Source: Queensland Country Life - Jessica Johnston 23 Sep 2019