Dairy tipping point

THE stark reality facing district farmers was brought home to the Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack on a McMillans property.

McMillans farmer Ian Mathers explains his plight to the Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack.

McMillans farmer Ian Mathers explains his plight to the Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack.

Second-generation farmers, Ian and Amy Mathers have sold 80 Autumn-bred dairy cows and the remainder of their 350-cow dairy herd will be gone within two months.

"We just can't afford to continue to milk," Mr Mathers said.

"Twenty-three (district dairy) properties are now closed."

The 485-hectare property near Cohuna was purchased almost half a century ago by Mr Mathers' parents, Norm, now 74, and Gail, 72.

Mr McCormack was told that farmers are not only having to contend with drought, but they are battling drought and high water and feed prices and a meagre return for their milk.

The Mathers have decided that their rotary dairy will remain idle while they grow vetch and some oats and wheat while trading some water to make an income for them and their three young children, aged 8, 6 and 2.

The Deputy Prime Minister was told that another 500 cows from a district property were sold yesterday, with the loss of $1.5 million worth of milk production.

Mr McCormack said that The Nationals were standing up for farmers, whereas Labor and its leader, Bill Shorten have shown little interest in the farmers' plight and, if elected this year, would take even more water out of the Murray Darling Basin.

The Federal Member for Murray, Damian Drum said that the dairy industry was "at a tipping point" and said that while he understood the desperation felt by farming communities, pausing the Murray Darling Basin Plan would be a mistake.

"Look, there's no doubt that it is an imperfect plan, but we're almost there," he said.

"Be careful what you wish for, because if we have no plan, Labor and the Greens will take even more water off you."

Mr Drum said that the water issue was complex.

"If it was simple, we would have sorted it out already", he said.

He said that Labor, most city residents and the city media had no concept of the issues confronting farmers and rural communities.

"They think that the water is being taken by greedy farmers, and we know that's not true," he said.

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