Taree milk price forum and ACCC inquiry: farmers to share their anguish

Milked dry: Nabiac farmers Phillip and Jason Schneider will attend the ACCC inquiry into milk prices in Taree at noon next Tuesday, February 7 at Club West.
Milked dry: Nabiac farmers Phillip and Jason Schneider will attend the ACCC inquiry into milk prices in Taree at noon next Tuesday, February 7 at Club West.

WHEN Phillip Schneider would welcome primary school students to his farm they had one big question: ‘why do you get paid so little for your milk?’. 

“I couldn’t answer the question, but they could: greed,” said the Nabiac based farmer. These farm tours were many years ago, and had to be stopped due to the tragic loss of a grandchild to a rare tumour and subsequent poor health for Phillip. 

But this question remains and will be one of many taken to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) inquiry into milk prices in Taree at noon next Tuesday, February 7 at Club West. 

Phillip, 62, has been a farmer for 48 years. His farm milks around 70 cows, which produce between 25 to 50 litres a day to milk supplier Parmalat.

In January, Parmalat announced a two cent reduction on last year's price, with farmers now told to expect an average price of 44.1 cents per litre in 2017. 

“Twenty five years ago we were getting 54 cents – we need that all year around,” Phillip said.

“It’s tough, there’s no two ways about it. We can’t afford a flood or drought.” 

Phillip said the latest dry period is the worse he’s experienced in 48 years and the recent rain ‘saved’ them.  

With other farmers in the area already make the tough decision to close down, the thought has crossed the family’s mind but for Phillip he couldn’t imagine leaving.

“What else would I do? I’ve built so much here, I don’t want to sell, I want this to be for my grandchildren.” 

Phillip prides himself on his milk quality and has won district and State awards and is considered in the top five per cent of Australia for quality. 

“I still try and run the farm the same – but it just gets tighter and tighter. I’m not cutting corners but it’s not easy,” Phillip said. 

Due to a spine disease Phillip can no longer milk and his son Jason is handling the milking. 

Phillip does the farm work and helps care for Jason and his wife Kylie’s three children, as Kylie is an intensive care nurse. 

Phillip said they are a strong unit as a family but he feels for those desperately struggling in the area.

“People come to meetings in tears,” he said. 

“Wives have to be on suicide watch for their husbands. Things shouldn’t be in that position.” 

Phillip and Jason will attend the inquiry. “It’s a start, it might not help us, but it’s a start in the right direction.” 

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