Elena Garcia

Rural Australia is again reeling from drought. Elena Garcia, a regenerative grazier and land manager, argues that governments will continue to fail farmers as long as they refuse to acknowledge the underlying cause — climate change.

Farmers cannot get the dole. However, if they are drought declared they and their partners can apply for the Farm Household Allowance (FHA). This has just been increased from a maximum of three to four cumulative years out of every seven, no matter how long the drought lasts.

How did Murray Goulburn, once Australia’s biggest milk processor and a successful dairy cooperative since 1950, end up being sold to its international competitor, Canadian dairy giant Saputo? In the third of this multi-part series (read part one and two), Elena Garcia provides some answers.

Dairy cows in a field

How did Murray Goulburn, once Australia’s biggest milk processor and a successful dairy cooperative since 1950, end up being sold to its international competitor, Canadian dairy giant Saputo? In the second of this multi-part series (read part 1 here), Elena Garcia provides some answers.

 

How did Murray Goulburn, once Australia’s biggest milk processor and a successful dairy cooperative since 1950, end up sold to its international competitor, Canadian dairy giant Saputo? In the first of this multi-part series, Elena Garcia provides some answers.

After nearly 70 years as a cooperative that was wholly owned by the farmers who supply the milk, on April 5 Victorian dairy farmers voted to sell Murray Goulburn, once Australia’s biggest dairy processing business, to foreign owners.

Australia’s largest milk processor Murray Goulburn has announced it will close manufacturing plants in three small rural towns: Kiewa and Rochester in northern Victoria and Edith Creek in Tasmania.

Murray Goulburn expects 360 people will lose their jobs. The closures are in areas where there are no other industries.

This will have a huge impact on these three local communities. The 700 residents of Kiewa-Tangambalanga will lose 135 jobs from Murray Goulburn's factory closure.

Australia is the most urbanised country on earth. Almost 90% of Australians live in urban areas, while rural Australia, as of 2010–11, had only 134,000 farm businesses employing 307,000 people to manage 52% of Australia — 417.3 million hectares of land, including the 46.3% of Australia that is marginal land.

The dairy industry is in crisis and dairy sustainability is under attack.

In Victoria — where most dairy farms are — Australia’s largest processor, farmer-owned co-operative Murray Goulburn, allowed outside investors to become members, to get the funds to build more infrastructure to take advantage of export opportunities. Murray Goulburn prioritised paying returns to those investors out of their 2016 $44 million annual profit, rather than to the farmers who supply the product.

Australian farming is in crisis.

Family farmers are being taken over by corporate agribusinesses, their land is being polluted by mining companies and they are powerless to stop and the supermarket duopoly of Coles and Woolworths which keeps prices low for consumers by paying producers prices so low they barely cover costs.

At the same time there is increasing speculation in buying water rights. Farming cannot survive without clean water. The most reliable source of water is artesian, which the mining industry can draw from unregulated and pollute at will.

As the demand for Australian farm products skyrockets in Asia, corporate Australia is buying up drought-crippled but viable rural properties at bargain prices.

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