Dairy farmers have to wonder if the left hand of the federal Labor Party is talking to the right hand.
Shadow Minister for Agriculture Joel Fitzgibbon (pictured) has acknowledged the pain dairy farmers are enduring and has put forward his plan to help the industry, by implementing a minimum farm gate milk price and possibly a 'Dairy Commissioner'.
On the other hand, Shadow Minister for Water Tony Burke wants to increase environmental water buybacks if elected - the source of a lot of pain for dairy farmers in northern Victoria.
Burke's seven page policy released last week makes no reference to affected farmers or their communities. Moreover, Tony Burke wants to undo many of the protections regional communities have successfully secured over the years, including a cap on water buybacks and strengthened socio-economic test.
Northern Victoria contributes more than 80 per cent of total milk production in the Murray-Darling Basin and the ten processors operating in the north collectively own stainless steel worth more than $1 billion. The dairy sector directly employs more than 6000 people and thousands more jobs are generated in communities built around the dairy industry.
Tony Burke's water policy threatens all of these jobs, business investments and regional communities.
At the United Dairyfarmers of Victoria (UDV) Conference on Friday, members unanimously passed a resolution calling for the federal government to implement all of the recommendations of the Productivity Commission's five year review into the Murray-Darling Basin Plan as a matter of urgency. Regional jobs and communities must be valued in the Basin Plan. We all want a healthy river, but this must be achieved in balance with the needs of sustainable food production and river communities.
- Paul Mumford, UDV president