A GROUP of dairy farmers met with Parliamentary Secretary of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Sid Sidebottom last week about the future of the dairy industry, in the light of the supermarket price war on milk.
Dairy farmers claim the milk is being sold too cheaply and impacting on the price producer's receive, with a ripple effect that affects the long-term sustainability of the industry.
One member of the meeting was former WAFarmers president Mike Norton who said it was an interesting meeting, but no problems in the short term would be solved.
"Mr Sidebottom said all the right things as far as all the problems were concerned," Mr Norton said.
"But when we made suggestions to him on how to fix the problems, he assured us he didn't think either side of politics would implement any of it.
"One of the suggested solutions was the need to be a change in legislation to give the production sector more protection and encouragement.
"Like the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) do with consumers.
"The long and the short of it is that nothing is going to happen very quickly."
Mr Norton said despite no solutions being reached, he still believed the meeting was worthwhile as farmers got their message across.
"As far as Mr Sidebottom having a political solution, that proved to be a little bit more difficult," Mr Norton said.
"Mr Sidebottom did say he was worried about the age of farmers.
"And he said that is why we have all this education, but it is a bit late to educate 50-year-olds because it is all about profitability and that's what will keep the younger generation in the industry."
At one stage of the meeting one of Mr Sidebottom's sidekicks suggested farmers seek funding from Royalties for Regions but Mr Norton was quuick to reply that Royalties for Regions was never set up to subsidise poor prices in supermarkets.
"That just demonstrates how bereft they are of practical ideas or solutions to the problems," Mr Norton said.
Mr Sidebottom said the meeting was a very frank and open discussion, with views strongly and firmly put on both sides.
"I reinforced the government's view that the Trade Practices Act and the ACCC provide an appropriate avenue for any concerns about $1 dollar milk pricing to be raised," Mr Sidebottom said.
"It's clear that sticking points remain, but as I said at the meeting, farmers and producers need to provide the ACCC with substantive evidence that the supermarket duopoly is affecting the ability of farmers and processors to get a fair price for their milk.
"So far as I am aware, no substantive evidence has been provided to the ACCC."
"I've been told that farmers and producers are afraid they'll lose business with the supermarkets and are too afraid to speak to the ACCC.
"But as the ACCC has made clear, evidence can be provided anonymously."