DAIRY farmers took milk processors to task over the handling of milk oversupply and some farmers being told their milk was not wanted, at the WAFarmers annual dairy conference last week.
A panel of Brownes managing director Tony Girgis, Harvey Fresh general manager Paul Lorimer and Lion Dairy and Drinks managing director Peter West were asked to explain their company's actions over the past 12 months.
Mr Girgis bore the brunt of supplier outrage, following Brownes' decision in April to not renew four dairy farmers' contracts in September.
One of the four, Wagerup farmer Tony Ferraro, called on Mr Girgis to publicly apologise for the way his family had been informed their milk was not wanted.
"How do I tell my two sons, who are the future of this industry, that they don't have a home for their milk?" Mr Ferraro asked.
"What you did to my son physically and financially, you have burnt us out."
Mr Ferraro said that at a meeting prior to being notified they would not be offered a new contract, Mr Girgis had personally told him he was "the perfect farmer, hour out of Perth, good milk and two boys on the farm".
"Three weeks later we get an email from the field rep telling us it was over; would it have been so hard to call a producers meeting and say 'look guys, we have a problem'?
"Getting rid of nine farmers will not solve your problem.
"What are you going to do, have another round at Christmas?"
Mr Girgis defended his actions, saying "none of us could have foreseen this outcome".
He said a decision by the Department of Environment Regulation (DER) to "pull Brownes' cheese licence" without warning in April had made the oversupply issue worse.
But he was working with theDepartment of Agriculture and Food (DAFWA) and WAFarmers to come up with a "short or medium-term structure that gets these guys back in the game".
"This does hinge on us being able to process milk into cheese. I can't guarantee anything, but on our part, we are doing everything we can to find a solution."
New WAFarmers dairy president Michael Partridge called on Brownes and Parmalat-owned Harvey Fresh to commit to helping those without contracts.
"Brownes chased four people for milk, now the contracts are ended," Mr Partridge said.
"We have nine people without a home for their milk and it's not a good place for the industry to be.
"We need some sort of commitment from companies so that people with a life commitment to the industry will have the option to continue for when the cycle improves."
Mr Lorimer defended Parmalat's decision to offer above-market farmgate prices when it took over Harvey Fresh in 2014 and in pushing suppliers to increase production.
"When Parmalat entered the market, there was a big downward slide in milk supply and there was a big messages about getting this back into growth and getting supply up where it used to be, so we went out and offered contracts with strong farmgate price and incentives," Mr Lorimer said.