Farmers milked by deregulation
by Andrew Jackson Over three hundred dairy farmers in New South Wales and Queensland have been forced off the land in just six months under the new deregulated market system forced on them by the Federal Government. Another 30 percent of farms remaining expected to quit the industry within the next five years. Dairy farmers in NSW who were receiving up to 54 cents per litre of fresh milk under the regulated system have watched helplessly as the large milk processing corporations have slashed the farm-gate price to just 25 cents, leaving the average farm with a loss of $9,500 in the current financial year. The figures, contained in a report by the Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resource Economics, confirmed many of the worst-case predictions that were being offered prior to deregulation last year. The Federal Government told the States they had to deregulate by June 30 last year if they wanted to take advantage of a $337 million dollar "restructuring" package on offer. The package was not aimed at keeping small dairy farmers in business, but was being offered as an incentive to quit the industry. While the Federal Government has big-noted itself on the generosity of the package, it is in actually being funded by a new 11 cent tax on consumers. The NSW Agriculture Minister Richard Amery claimed last week that "the NSW dairy farmers specifically ruled out asking for additional compensation" when deregulation was passed by State Parliament. In fact, the legislation to deregulate was blocked twice in the NSW Upper House by the Nationals, Greens and Democrats, who were seeking greater financial support for farmers from the State Government. However due to Federal Government pressure the Nationals caved in at the last minute and the Bill went through without a cent of extra assistance. The outcome of deregulation has been handing over small farm production to the agri-business corporations, and increased profits for the multi- national milk processors, at the expense of an estimated 15,000 jobs in rural Australia.