Community unites with farmers in resistance to dairy expansion in Bass Coast Shire
The proposed multi-million dollar expansion of Kernot Dairy, owned by the Chinese corporation Ningbo, is raising the ire of farmers and local residents in Gippsland on a day that commemorates the struggle of small farmers internationally.
The Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance (AFSA) and Fair Food Farmers United (FFFU) are supporting the campaign against the expansion of the dairy in solidarity with the local community and the worldwide family farmers’ movement La Via Campesina, which celebrates the International Day of Peasant Struggle on April 17.
While Australian farmers and food workers do not experience the physical intimidation and violence that many small-scale farmers face world-wide, AFSA says they are subject to the same negative impacts of the increasing power of foreign multinational companies.
The plans to expand an existing dairy on Loch-Kernot Road include the construction of a bottling plant, storage facility, a feed-pad barn to house 1,000 dairy cows, and an effluent treatment plant on prime agricultural land.
Residents and local producers are concerned about the economic, social and environmental impacts of large-scale industrial farming on the region.
“We are consistently told that this type of investment will bring jobs to the region,” says Sylvia Collett, owner of Bass Coast Farm.
“Yet where I have a farm at Glen Forbes, 34 family dairy farms have closed down over the past 25 years in a five kilometer stretch of road.
“These family farmers left the dairy industry as they were told either ‘get big or get out’.”
Issues of animal health and welfare in the proposed intensive farm rearing systems have also been raised, along with the environmental risks to the Bass River catchment.
“The myriad of hidden costs to the environment which allow for ‘cheap’ milk are unloaded onto local communities and the broader community,” says Sylvia.
Foreign investment has seen large segments of the Australian food industry absorbed by multinational agribusiness that take profits offshore:
- Four firms control over 72 per cent of the milk and cream markets in Australia. Three are multinationals: Lion (Japan), Parmalat (Italy & France) and Fonterra (New Zealand). The fourth is the Murray-Goulburn co-operative.
- Primo Meats, a subsidiary of the world’s largest meat supplier JBS (Brazil), controls 50% of the Australian smallgoods market, with George Weston Foods (owned by British-based multinational Associated British Foods) holding 20%
- Two firms now control 49% of all meat processing in Australia: JBS-Primo, and a Cargill-Teys (United States) joint venture
Meanwhile, Australia is losing its farmers. Nationally, the number of dairy farmers has declined from 22,000 in 1980 to less than 7,000 by 2012.
Take action: make your views known!
We call on all AFSA members and supporters, especially those living in and near Gippsland, to express your views about this proposed development to Bass Coast Shire, by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org, and referencing the development application: http://www.basscoast.vic.gov.au/Services/Building_Development/Planning/Statutory_Planning/Planning_Issues/Planning_application_140368_-_Kernot_Dairy_proposa
We also invite all readers who support our vision of a fair and democratic food future for Australia to join AFSA.
- Tammi Jonas, President, Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance: 0422 429 362
- Sylvia Collett, Bass Coast Farm: 0409 252 373
April 17th: History and Background
April 17th, the International Day of Peasant and Family Farmer Struggle is an occasion to recognise the negative impacts of the industrialised food system on small-scale agriculture, and to remember those who have died fighting for their right to food and the freedom to produce it.
On this day in 1996 19 members of Movimento dos Trabalhadores Ruralis Sem Terra (MST) were killed in Eldorado do Carajas, Brazil, while fighting for land and justice.
La Via Campesina’s central message is the importance of food sovereignty – the right of communities and nations to decide their own agricultural production regimes, with priority to local production and consumption.
Via Campesina argues that food is much more than a mere commodity to be traded for profit and speculation, without regard for the livelihoods of those who produce it. On the contrary, it is fundamentally important to human health and well-being, and the long-term sustainability of ecosystems; and as such demands priority recognition in our political, economic and legal systems.
Via Campesina, in common with many analysts and experts around the world, including the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, attribute the crippling hunger of close to 1 billion people to the domination of the global food system by corporate agri-business and an unjust international trade regime that squeezes the livelihoods of small- and medium-scale producers.