Fifth-generation dairy farmers from Dubbo, NSW, are struggling to keep their milk and cream products on the shelves as supermarkets push the ‘drought levy’ milk brands to customers.
The Chesworth family are speaking out against the artificial drought levies introduced on Coles and Woolworths brand milk, arguing the milk levies are temporary and will do nothing to address broader, long-term pricing structure problems for the industry.
The drought milk levy is driving sales away from more sustainable milk brands that pay farmers fair prices on a permanent basis, rather than only in times of crisis.
The family is urging consumers to support drought-affected farmers by simply buying local produce - a more direct and sustainable way of ensuring funds are directed to farmers struggling with dry conditions.
“We just wanted to remind the community that the most effective way to support your local farmers is to buy their products,” Steve Chesworth said.
“We know people donate to drought funds out of the goodness of their hearts but I urge them to consider going to the local butcher instead.
"Buy the local honey and eggs, oranges, milk and cream.
"For every dollar spent locally it generates seven.”
Funds raised through supermarket drought levies and statewide or national campaigns can often be eroded through the process of distribution and may also be difficult to trace.
Much of the funds raised may also never make it to local communities of the people who donated.
The Chesworths operate an 800-head dairy farm and adjoining single source dairy, meaning they package their own dairy products and sell directly to consumers.
Little Big Dairy Co branded milk and cream has been a rare dairy industry success story in recent years and has become a much-loved feature of communities in Dubbo and surrounding areas.
After a local supermarket stopped stocking the Little Big Dairy Co single source milk products altogether, the Chesworth family felt compelled to speak out about the importance of buying local produce at this difficult time.
“The Little Big Dairy Co and adjoining farm employs 22 local people and we’ve been able to retain all our staff despite the conditions but we need the support of our community more than ever at this time,” Mr Chesworth said.
“Buying local produce directly supports your community by ensuring local farmers are able to retain staff, feed stock and continue to supply quality produce.
"We lost our dryland crop last year and we’ve only had 6 inches of rain this year, so we’ve lost this year’s crop as well.
“We’re starting to feel really fatigued because it’s relentless.
"We had hay and grain to last us 12 months but we’re now coming to the end of our 12 months now and we’re heading into unchartered waters.
“If you want funds directed to farmers affected by the drought - buy local or buy branded.
"It ensures a robust supply chain and sustainable returns for farmers in the long term.”