Dairy farmer's despair before Senate

NATALIE BROWNBusselton Dunsborough Times

A Yoongarillup dairy farmer’s moving letter about the bleak future of Australia’s dairy farmers has been brought to the nation’s attention after it was read before a Senate inquiry into the milk price war.

The letter from 19-year-old Nikki Slee, who is a fourth generation dairy farmer on her family’s farm, was read by Forrest MP Nola Marino.

Ms Marino felt it was necessary for the senate committee to hear a real account of what was happening.

“Nikki’s firsthand account of what reductions in farm-gate prices can do and how this will impact on her future… was very important,” she said.

“It was a graphic, but simple letter and…real life evidence.”

Miss Slee told the Times she wrote the letter because “dairy farmers were suffering in silence and people needed to know what was going on and how this war is affecting the industry.”

The farming community was still reeling from deregulation in 2000, she said, and the price wars which have driven the price of Coles and Woolworths home-brand milks to as low as $1 a litre was making the industry unsustainable.

“Losing the farm is unimaginable,” she said.

“It’s our life. It’s everything. 89 years of hard work, sweat, broken bones, animals and four generations worth of knowledge, skills and a fierce love and respect for the land.”

Miss Slee said it was heartbreaking to see so much land in her district for sale.

“Drive down any rural road, and the dreaded ‘for sale’ signs are all over it,” she said.

“…the bank foreclosed on at least two separate farms last year… (And) just in the last two weeks, one more farmer from my district has gotten out of dairy.”

Miss Slee said being a farmer was not simply a job but her lifestyle and was passionate about creating a viable future for young Australian farmers.

“So many young farmers have left their family farms and gone into other jobs, such as trades, because they know there’s no money in farming,” she said.

“So what happens when the last of us decide we can’t keep up the fight anymore?”

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