Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Dick Smith at GV dairy protest meeting

National Party Senator Barnaby Joyce and Australian food campaigner Dick Smith will lead the speakers list at a dairy crisis meeting to be held at Tongala next week.

GEOFF ADAMS February 5, 2013 4:08am

Dick Smith

National Party Senator Barnaby Joyce and Australian food campaigner Dick Smith will lead the speakers list at a dairy crisis meeting at Tongala next week.

The newly formed lobby group, Farmer Power, is campaigning for a better milk price, preference for Australian-made foods and reviews of government policies.

The northern Victorian group, chaired by Wyuna farmer Nigel Hicks, has organised a meeting for Tongala Shire Hall at 10.30am on Wednesday, February 13.

Senator Joyce has been prominent in seeking better social and economic outcomes from the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

He is a qualified accountant and comes from a farming family.

Lynne Wilkinson from Ausbuy will also speak to the Tongala meeting.

Mr Hicks said the speakers would focus on agriculture and the wider community impacts of a struggling dairy industry.

‘‘Australian food promoter Dick Smith will be talking not just about milk prices, but linking this with the community angle and the impact on community and jobs.’’

Mr Hicks said the issues were connected with industry viability and food security.

‘‘We have strict standards of clean and green food, and the message needs to get out there to people not directly associated with agriculture that it comes at a cost and we need to support Australian production.

‘‘Heinz leaving Girgarre and the shrinking of SPC Ardmona is an example of what’s happening in this country.’’

At some Farmer Power meetings, farmers have criticised the UDV for its representation, but last week the UDV and Farmer Power met to head off what could have led to confrontation.

One of the goals of Farmer Power is to get an independent review of ‘‘structures representing the industry’’.

Following a meeting in Warrnambool last night, the UDV and Farmer Power released a joint statement: ‘‘The VFF/UDV and Farmer Power are working together to seek financial assistance that farmers need right now.

‘‘Dairy is our state’s biggest export earner. Together we need to support our farmers for the future of the state.

‘‘We will be going to banks to get their support and then to government to get financial assistance for farmers.’’

UDV president Kerry Callow said the viability of dairy farmers had been threatened by unsustainable milk prices and they needed government support.

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