Cheap milk and corporate greed are killing dairy farmers, and in a commodity-driven food system there isn’t a damned thing farmers can do about it.
Regulation is stifling small-scale, ethical farming, and when the government shuts you down, there isn’t a damned thing farmers can do about it.
Loss of abattoirs across Australia is driving small-scale livestock farmers out of business, and there isn’t a damned thing farmers can do about it.
And yet there is something we can do about these problems, but farmers need everybody’s help. Farmers can’t mend the broken food system alone, but together we can all take back control of the means and ways of production!
On dairy, there are some relatively simple things everyone can do right now:
- boycott Coles, Woolies, and Aldi, who keep prices on milk artificially low, hurting farmers every day;
- if you can’t boycott the big supermarkets because you genuinely have nowhere else to shop, at least boycott their private labels (Coles, Woolies, Aldi brands) and buy branded products;
- buy your milk directly from a farmer!
Check out Richard Cornish’s piece On Australian Milk for more insight into why dairy farmers are being driven out of business by a system that treats food as a commodity in the volatile global market.
For tips on how to avoid the duopoly (+Aldi), see these excellent tips from Sharon Lee and Jennifer Richards. Also check out FlavourCrusader’s list of farms from which you can buy your dairy (and other produce) directly!
On regulation, AFSA is running a crowdfunding campaign to establish a Legal Defence Fund to support small-scale farms suffering from overly burdensome, out-of-date, and inappropriate-to-scale regulation and planning frameworks.
Donate today so that farms like Elgaar, Mooview, and Happy Valley Free Range can get back to making a living doing what they do best – growing ethical and ecologically-sound, nutritious, and delicious food!
AFSA recently co-hosted events at the wonderful polyculture that is Caroola Farm, and in Canberra with Southern Harvest and the Australian Conservation Council. We also screened the excellent new documentary Polyfaces with the generous support of Regrarians and filmmakers Lisa Heenan, Isaebella Doherty, and Darren Doherty, followed by a delicious fair food dinner at A Baker. These events blended local strategising about the infrastructure needed to support the small-scale farming movement with the launch the exciting draft of the ACT Peoples’ Food Plan. Both occasions also served as successful fundraisers for the AFSA Legal Defence Fund.
Following on from our submission to the Animal Industries Advisory Committee inquiry in February, AFSA is in discussions with the Victorian Ministers for Planning and Agriculture on the necessary changes to planning and regulation to keep up with innovation and best practice in the small-scale farming movement. We have been assured that our concerns have been heard, and a response from the ministers to the report is due in the next couple of months. We are also supportive of Minister Pulford’s work in Parliament to implement the recommendations from last year’s review of PrimeSafe (the Victorian meat industry regulator).
On abattoirs, AFSA has been meeting with farmers all over the country to learn more of their challenges, and what we hear repeatedly is:
- huge multi-national corporations like JBS Swift are buying up Australian abattoirs and shutting small-scale producers out;
- big, export-focused abattoirs are increasingly telling small-scale farmers to go somewhere else;
- small, regional abattoirs are closing due to decreasing viability, often as a result of the need to upgrade facilities in order to meet changing regulations and the increasing cost of compliance;
- the very limited number of poultry abattoirs in Australia are threatening to or have already shut small-scale farmers out as they don’t want to process small batches, and in some cases because they claim that the producers are competition as they raise the same breeds as the owners of the abattoirs.
The result of narrowing access to local abattoirs is that farmers are transporting animals longer distances for slaughter, a situation that has negative impacts on animal welfare and also the welfare of the farmers who in some cases might be doing more than an 8-hour round trip drive just to have their animals processed. This is not sustainable in terms of farmers’ time nor finances.
AFSA is talking with government and small-scale producers to find solutions to these barriers to ethical and ecologically-sound livestock farming. We simply must build more abattoirs (mobile or fixed) to protect the viability and integrity of the growing number of small-scale, ethical livestock farms in Australia.
I recently had the pleasure to address the Tourism North East’s Agritourism Conference a few weeks ago, where I posited that the only reason we need agritourism is because we’ve made people tourists on the land, and failed to support farmers by paying appropriately for the cost of food.
We need to make agritourism a supplementary activity to agriculture that reconnects people to food production and helps make farming viable again – not by replacing agricultural income with tourism income, but by using the tourism to help people learn to pay what it costs to produce the food and let farmers get back to farming. Agritourism can be a wonderful form of community engagement and connecting people to food production, and there is an urgent need to re-skill the population around farming and the domestic skills of cooking, preserving, and reducing waste.
A few weeks ago I attended the Pan Pacific Pork Expo in Queensland along with my husband Stuart, where we gained a great deal of insight into the motivations and challenges of the intensive pork industry in Australia. I’ve written an account of the problems of Big Pharma, Big Food & the intensive pig industry here.
AFSA has grave concerns about the control held by large pharmaceutical companies and their quick fixes to keep animals in unhealthy environments alive, which hides the need for serious reform of those production methods. By working more closely with intensive animal industries, AFSA hopes to start making small inroads to help shift the industry towards more ethical, ecologically- and socially-just forms of production.
Here’s hoping for a brighter future for all farm animals, farm and food workers, farmers and eaters everywhere.