The contract for the controversial Coles-branded ‘Farmers Fund’ milk is up for renewal in September and despite anger from their members, the Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) will look to renew the deal.
Farmers Fund Milk charges $2.50 for two litres with 40 cents going to a fund distributed to farmers by the VFF through a grants process.
Those against the deal have said their organisation is endorsing milk that sells for barely more than a dollar per litre — something they have lobbied against — while also taking a cut off the top.
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“Farmers Fund Milk is good not only for the industry, as far as having one brand that supports agriculture and farming, but also it is trying to give people at the bottom end of the price point an opportunity to still be able to buy milk and support farmers themselves,” VFF President David Jochinke said.
The fund has raised over two million dollars from which dairy farmers can apply for up to $10,000 grants for programs, training or infrastructure that, according to the VFF’s website, “enhances productivity, builds resilience and stimulates sustainable growth,” for the farmer.
“If you do take a step back and say what has been achieved and what where we are at with the product, I believe it is in the success column,” Mr Jochinke said.
Mr Jochinke said he believed that despite the criticism the deal is likely to continue.
“That’s what leadership is about,” he said.
“Sometimes leadership is about making a call, sometimes it is about thinking about the greater good.”
Mr Jochinke said he thinks the product helps agriculture to sell it’s story.
Possible higher price point
Many VFF members also wanted the product to continue, but at a higher price point to bring it closer in line with branded products.
Therefore in negotiations with Coles the VFF may ask the supermarket to charge more for the milk,
“It’s critical that we’ve got something like this in the first place, we just want to strengthen it,” Mr Jochinke said.
He said that any extra money would be added to the fund to distribute to farmers.
When the product was first launched, there was a much-publicised split between the Victorian Farmers Federation and its dairy arm the United Dairy Farmers of Victoria.
It was thought the UDV were against the product, but the organisations views seem to have changed.
UDV President Adam Jenkins has indicated support for Farmers Fund Milk to continue.
“We need to make sure it is done properly,” he said.
“It is a tough one to advocate against dollar milk and have your own organisation advocate for something [Farmers Fund milk] that was put in place, but you have to take a mature approach.
“We need to see the commercial reality and work through those things properly.”
By: Warwick Long
Source: ABC Rural