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A dairy farmer explains the real cost of cheap milk, but explains how lasting change can come from spending more of yours.
The other day, something that we’ve known for a while became public knowledge: the cost of cheap milk. Although I am heartened by the public’s response, I also feel the need to make sure the discussion stays on topic.
As far as I’m concerned, the issue is the discrepancy between our work and the valuation of our goods. This might be an obvious point, but, it steps on how we run our business. It’s not animal rights, or how the damage of $1 milk to the industry is a validation of veganism. Nothing against vegans, but it’s not your issue. It’s ours.
Let me explain.
My husband and I are dairy farmers. We’ve raised a family on our farm, which was owned by his family. Family in this area is important, but not as important as it used to be. The numbers of familiar names have dwindled as the erosion of their property grows.
It’s a shame to see it happen to our mob, as our nation has a rich dairy farming history as a nation. But, I can only tell you what I’ve seen. A bare farm exists not only at the address, but also inside those who once worked at it, the families who live on it, and the children who were raised in it.
While moving agriculture into the hands of foreign investors may make sense to certain people, to others, it’s a noose. It’s a larger discussion to have at a later date, which will probably end up with someone getting the short end.
The $1 milk has taken a horrible toll. We are still in business, as is our neighbour over the hill, but only because we’ve clung on tight. (Surviving only by virtue of your friends’ failure is a horrible thing.)
My husband and I both had the idealistic idea of passing the farm onto our kids, but that seems to be very far away. Bow and scrape, and hope for the best. But that is the life we chose, and these, the challenges we must overcome.
Now, I’m not asking for your pity, or that you start a social media group with an inventive slogan. That’s already too much. All we’re asking you to do is think twice when you’re at the supermarket fridge.
Yes, it’s for a bunch of people that you’ve never met, and asking someone to spend more is something I thought I’d never ask, ever. But I know, and have seen, the great Australian empathy at work in times of crisis, and all we are asking is for you to think twice about the real cost of the price tag of the milk you buy.