The Nationals in Government are continuing to support farmers as the conversation about milk prices makes headlines.

Dairy farmers are under pressure as major supermarkets continue to sell milk for just $1 per litre. Many farmers have complained that the price of producing milk is higher than what it is being sold for, prompting fears about the future of Australia’s dairy industry.

NSW Nationals Coffs Harbour MP Andrew Fraser was among the first demanding the big supermarkets lift their prices and pass that straight back to the farmers this month, so they wouldn’t be squeezed out of their industry.

Dr David Gillespie, a Federal Nationals MP from the mid-north coast of NSW, said structural reforms were needed in the dairy industry to ensure local farms were not only sustainable, but also had the capacity to grow and flourish in future.

“The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission previously identified market failure in the dairy industry and the sector has since come to a united position in response on the need for a mandatory code of conduct for the dairy industry,” Dr Gillespie said. “I’m delighted that Australian Dairy Farmers have reached a position to support development of a mandatory code of conduct to improve the bargaining power for Australian dairy farmers.”

Federal Nationals Agriculture Minister David Littleproud welcomed calls for a mandatory code of conduct for the dairy sector from Australian Dairy Farmers, the peak body representing dairy farmer bodies around Australia.

Mr Littleproud asked the dairy sector to come up with a united position on a mandatory code and the ACCC report into the sector in April, saying he wanted the sector to choose its own direction and lead. Two weeks ago he’d told the sector it was time for them to come up with a position given four months had passed since the report was handed down.

“I commend ADF on their leadership on this issue,” Minister Littleproud said. “I will work with farm groups to get this code right. While a mandatory code should improve bargaining power it is unlikely to change milk prices. The ACCC report stated the farmers were at a disadvantage given processors had better access to market information, and that’s something we’re working on through the milk price index.”

“I also support the proposal currently being canvassed of a temporary retail levy going directly to dairy farmers to allow the industry breathing space to undertake broader fundamental structural change to secure the long term viability of the industry both locally and across Australia.”

“The current returns to dairy farmers are unsustainable and I believe both the processors and retailers have not only a moral obligation, but also a national interest obligation to ensure farmers in the dairy industry remain sustainable, particularly during challenging times,” he added.