Cows head to mainland for farmers' protest

DAIRY cows will take to the city streets of Melbourne and Sydney within weeks as Tasmanian dairy farmers step up their campaign against global giant National Foods.

Disgruntled farmers believe the action is the only way to secure better prices for their product and prevent some in the industry from losing their farms.

Campaigner Richard Bovill, who co-ordinated the Fair Dinkum Food campaign and national tractor rally in 2005, said the protest action would make the Australian public aware of the issue.

"We hoped the issue between National Foods and dairy farmers would be solved at negotiations on Thursday, and we are upset that it wasn't," Mr Bovill said.

"If these rallies fail then we fail the people of Australia."

Dairy farmers spent nine hours in negotiations on Thursday with National Foods in a bid to be paid a minimum of 39.8 cents per litre of milk sold to the company.

Mr Bovill said it would take at least four weeks to rally farmers together to begin protests.

"We will organise this with a range of national farmers and craft a message to the Australian public about how unfairly this multinational company is treating people," he said.

"It is not our intention to disrupt the Australian public but we want them to know how little our farmers are getting paid."

National Foods corporate affairs manager Geoff Lynch said the rallies would be counter- productive to farmers.

"It is just bizarre that Mr Bovill thinks these rallies are going to help Tasmanian farmers," Mr Lynch said.

"If he wants to drive down demand for National Foods farmers' milk, then this is the way to do it."

Mr Lynch said National Foods could not afford to pay farmers the price they were asking.

"I appreciate that these are tough times for farmers and what we demonstrated on Thursday was our complete resolve to do what we can to help," he said. "To give them the price they are asking would compro- mise the competitiveness of our business and that would result in less demand for milk from our farmers. We don't want that and neither do farmers."

Mr Bovill said the 2005 Fair Dinkum Food rallies had failed to achieve what he had hoped for at the time. "This time is differ- ent. This time it is about milk," he said. "It is not that we are being flooded by cheap imports this time, the problem is right here in our backyard."

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