Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Dairy farmers Twitter up

Farmers are joining Twitter to campaign for a positive China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (FTA) for agriculture.

September 2, 2014 3:00am

Sarah Parker with her Twitter message.

Farmers are joining Twitter to campaign for a positive China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (FTA) for agriculture.

Selfies and the Twitter hashtags #FTA4dairy and #FTA4farmers began surfacing on the social media platform last Wednesday.

The negotiations for the China FTA have been in the works since 2005 and a FTA for dairy exports would save the industry more than $30million in tariffs a year.

Mead dairy farmer and North Central Catchment Authority board member Dianne Bowles milks 200 cows with her husband Gary and has been active on Twitter since 2009.

She said an FTA was vital to the dairy industry for it to be profitable in the future.

‘‘We have had other FTAs in the past, such as the FTA with Japan, which we didn’t benefit from,’’ Mrs Bowles said.

‘‘But a FTA with China will benefit every farmer and we need to work together — there is more power in the bigger number.’’

Undera dairy farmer and Australian Dairy Farmer of the Year finalist Sarah Parker is also on the Twitter bandwagon and milks 140 cows with her husband Raymond.

She said the FTA negotiations would be a win-win for all.

‘‘I’ve got a sister-in-law who is Chinese, so I can see it from both sides. There is so much demand for Australian dairy in China, but we are so limited by the trading costs and the prices are restricted,’’ Mrs Parker said.

‘‘People in China are growing in prosperity and wealth and want more access to fresh food. We supply for a boutique cheese company and there is a demand over there for soft cheese, so it’s an opportunity for us and a benefit to them.’’

An FTA for dairy would also create more jobs in the Australian dairy processing and manufacturing sectors.

The social media campaign was rallied by Australian Dairy Farmers (ADF), the VFF and United Dairyfarmers of Victoria as Australia faces tariffs of up to 25 per cent on beef into China, 12 to 15 per cent on our lamb and other sheep meat and 10 to 15 per cent on dairy produce.

The ADF’s social media campaign officially began on Monday and urged dairy farmers and their supporters to take a selfie with their FTA message.

VFF president Peter Tuohey also told Country News an FTA would benefit dairy farmers.

‘‘If you go over to New Zealand where they have an FTA with China, the dairy farmers are making an extra $400000 a year and our farmers are a long way behind,’’ Mr Tuohey said.

He said Twitter was a great tool to highlight the importance of the FTA to the agriculture industry.

‘‘You can reach such a wide audience with Twitter and help the wider community understand these issues and highlight them to the government,’’ Mr Tuohey said.

‘‘That’s the main idea — we want to get the message through to the Federal Government.

‘‘It’s a hard deal to make with a lot of commodities to negotiate. But we need a good deal across all the commodities.’’

Mr Tuohey said he encouraged all farmers to join the conversation and to Tweet their local members of parliament.

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