“Imagine you decided to stay and defend your home from a bushfire, while your neighbour flees.”
“You save your home but the mental scars are deep.”
“Your neighbour’s place is burnt to the ground and sympathy floods in for the family and, in time, they move into a beautiful new home.”
This was the scenario clinical psychologist Rob Gordon put to me explaining why rifts often open in any community after a disaster. He pointed out that because everyone’s experience of a disaster is different, misunderstanding and resentment brew under the pressure of recovery.
I’ve seen it in dairy social media forums. While thousands of farmers are finding ways to support each other on forums like the Show Some Dairy Love Facebook page, there are some cranksters out there who need to kick heads.
I’ve felt the heat of that anger first-hand, ironically from a non-farmer, who says I was one of those with a secretive “special deal” shielded from the infamous claw-back, accusing me of having no morals.
The truth is that, in May 2015, I had chosen to sign up for one of Fonterra’s “risk management products” available to all suppliers. It meant the price for 70 per cent of our milk during the 15/16 financial year bobbed about in a range with upper and lower limits.
Sure, we would have missed out badly if prices did get to MG’s much-vaunted $6.05kgMS forecast close but it felt like good insurance.
When Fonterra cut its price in May 2016, the price for 70 per cent of our milk dropped to its floor. The remaining 30 per cent tumbled the whole way down.
Lots of people were much worse off than we were. Others were much better off.
That’s the thing. Just like a bushfire, the milk crisis has affected everyone differently. So many factors come into play, like:
- the size of your farm,
- the time of year your cows calve,
- which processor your farm supplies,
- whether you have/had a contract, and
- which stage your business is at.
On top of all this, there is loyalty and trust.
Hundreds of farmers swapped processors for the first time in years or decades. For many, it was a matter of survival. Others have not been able to switch and some consider leaving the last big co-op nothing short of treacherous desertion.
Add to all this that farmers have now been battling to pay bills for 10 months (actually, a lot longer if you were in one of the drought-affected regions) and it’s not surprising that people are feeling rather cranky, to say the least.
To make matters worse, change for the better seems an aeon away. The senate, ACCC and ASIC inquiries have revealed little to date, other than that the unrepentant Helou had not been interrogated.
I’m spending St Valentine’s Day at the Gippsland ACCC farmers’ forum. I hope that out of this comes a bit of the dairy love we all need.