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Farmers' Fund an important step to correct dairy losses

THE launch of Farmers’ Fund milk has two key objectives. The first is to deliver support to dairy farmers hit by the declining farmgate milk price. The second is to develop a platform for a stronger connection with consumers.

To respond to the price hits dairy farmers took last May, the VFF looked for ways to deliver practical help to dairy farmers.

SADA Fresh, developed by the South Australian Dairy Association, and WA Farmers First, developed by the Western Australia Farmers Federation, appeared to work well in those states.

Both these products deliver about 40 cents per two-litre bottle back to the industry and are sold in Coles ­supermarkets.

We know the volume of sales through Farmers’ Fund will be minor compared with total milk production and can’t possibly make a dent in the problem of world oversupply of milk.

However, the $1 million kicked in by Coles and the expected $1.5 million raised a year can make a difference for some dairy farmers doing it tough.

Since the fund was launched, the VFF has been overwhelmed with more than 90 applications from dairy farmers, and the first round of grants will start flowing out in mid-October.

Milk prices problems come and go, just as our other farm sectors suffer from cyclical markets. Grain growers this year have seen a sharp decline in prices due to a world glut, while beef and lamb producers are seeing some of the best prices ever.

With Farmers’ Fund, the VFF is looking at the long term — to build a fund based on multiple products that support farmers in all sectors in tough times and, just as important, rebuild the connection between farming and our mostly urban consumers.

The connection our urban-based population have with the production of their food has become weaker. If consumers don’t understand production methods and the rationale behind them, it is easy for others to fill the space with misinformation.

Every product we have in a family’s kitchen is an opportunity to communicate with that family; to tell the story of where that food came from, and why it is the best in the world.

Farmers’ Fund milk is the first step towards this lofty goal — but every journey starts with a first step.

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