Little in drought package for dairy farmers: QDO

Queensland DairyFarmers Organisation president, Brian Tessmann.
Queensland DairyFarmers Organisation president, Brian Tessmann. David Bancroft

THE Queensland Dairyfarmers' Organisation has welcomed new drought assistance measures from the Federal Government today, but has noted that the situation for drought relief and support measures will largely be status quo for dairy farmers.

QDO president Brian Tessmann said just as with other severe national disasters, there is a role for the government on behalf of the Australian community to assist in relieving some of the disaster's impacts and helping farming families back onto their feet.

"For dairy farmers, the greatest changes to note will be an expansion of the funding for concessional loans, bringing forward the scheduled changes to farm household income support, increased funding for emergency water infrastructure, and funding for mental health support services," he said.

"The funding for mental health support services is welcome and due recognition of the need to focus on mental health as well as farm financial health.

"But QDO also notes that the concessional loan program is contestable and won't be suitable and accessible for all dairy farmers.

"Critically important also with the concessional loans will be the viability test, which many dairy farmers, who are excellent managers, will have difficulty with due to their farm gate returns being supressed by the supermarket milk price war.

"This is no fault of their own or their farm management skills. 

"There are also important existing Queensland Government assistance measures such as rebates for emergency watering requirements for stocks and rebates for fodder transport.

"However, at the moment, these measures are not available for any dairy farming regions. Despite many dairy farmers having gone through their driest summer on record, none of the dairying regions is in an officially drought declared shire at this stage, despite many farms and regions looking drier than I have ever seen them.

"This is due to the very high rainfall of 12 months ago, and the declarations working on a 12-month time frame, but obviously if we continue to fail to receive summer rain, then these drought declarations will very soon spread into the State's dairying regions.

"Extra costs from drought have also burnt into farm margins, particularly with very high feed prices and increased electricity consumption with irrigation. Along with the man-made disaster of the supermarket milk price war, the drought is contributing to Queensland being short of milk by about 20 percent or 100 million litres across the year.

"As such, we encourage dairy farmers to apply for Individual Droughted Property (IDP) declarations and for the Queensland Government to start the process for assessing these regions, as time is of the essence for many farming families."

Mr Tessmann said that beyond drought measures, one of the biggest support measures that the Federal Government could offer the industry was also one of the cheapest.

"And that would be for them to correct the market failure in the domestic milk market and limiting the market dominance of the large supermarkets and implementing a Mandatory Code of Conduct that enables the restoration of a working market and sustainable returns to dairy farming families," he said.

"It must be remembered that one day the drought will end but without government action the supermarket dominance and market failure will go on indefinitely in the domestic fresh milk market and as QDO's latest producer survey points out - the farmers won't last that long and nor will fresh milk supplies to Queensland consumers."

Topics:  dairy farmers drought drought assistance