Lots has changed since 1980. Milk production in Victoria has more than doubled despite cow numbers remaining the same and 35% per cent less land to graze.
Since then, we’ve had massive advances in cow genetics, understanding how to grow grass and exactly what cows need to eat. But we farmers are no better off. Despite it all, we’re very much poorer.
Everyone seems to have an opinion on why that is and just whose fault it is. Pretty much everyone has copped it online: the government, supermarkets, milk processors, agri leaders, farmers and consumers. What strikes me, though, is just how similar our situation is to that of farmers around the globe.
Milk has been sprayed at icons in France, the Brits have hit the barricades in desperation, and outgunned riot police in Brussels. Things are miserable in the US, too. I think the reality is that affluent societies consider high-quality food a right. And you don’t value your rights until they are threatened.
Very few urban Australians would believe their access to fresh milk is at risk and, until they do, unsustainable food pricing will be “someone else’s problem”. I wonder whether it will be me or my children who will one day staff the barricades, wield the “milk cannon” or simply quietly try something else that’s truly valued by Australians.