In April, Murray Goulburn dramatically and retrospectively cut the price it paid farmers due to a global downturn in the industry.
Dairy farmers are now struggling to make each month’s milk cheque stretch to cover their costs.
Lately they have been losing the battle with many forced to ask for handouts from food charity organisations and Centrelink.
«Oh well (the cheque) arrives and it goes,» said Di Bowles, a Murray Goulburn supplier who farms at Mead in northern Victoria.
«The last milk cheque I got was only $600 short, but that was because we did no extra works (on the farm) that we were going to do.»
«The month before I think we were $12,000 short. That’s a lot of money.»
It is similar for hundreds of Murray Goulburn suppliers across the major dairy regions of south east Australia.
«Yeah it’s been, really really, trying,» said Lyndal Humphris who farms with husband Tim at Tongala in northern Victoria.
«We’re pretty much just trying to tap into all the resources and support networks that are out through Dairy Australia and Murray Dairy and Centrelink and trying to find a way to minimise the impact it’s going to have on our business.»
Suppliers and shareholders are fronting the company today at its annual general meeting.
Their list of complaints is long. Along with the low milk price, they accuse the company of mismanagement, and poor communication.
Ahead of the meeting, Murray Goulburn has announced it will go into debt to try to reduce pressure on farmers.
The company is hoping the move, along with a plan to extend supplier debt repayments, will help restore confidence.
But it may be too late.
Some farmers have already left and taken their milk supply to other milk processors, others are on waiting lists to do the same.
There’s been at least a 20 per cent decline in the amount of milk supplied to MG compared to the same time last year.
Tim Humphris believes that there has been a shift — from a once unyielding confidence in Murray Goulburn as a cooperative that protects farmers interests — to a more sceptical mood.
«We’re trying to set our business up to harness every opportunity into the future and unfortunately for Murray Goulburn that will come at a cost for Murray Goulburn.»
«We’re going to look after out family first and our business first,» he said.
Di Bowles said she was going to the AGM to get answers.
«Murray Goulburn suppliers feel let down that they’re the last one to get any financial gain from the company.»
«The shareholders are placed before the farmers.»
She wants Murray Goulburn to increase transparency and communication with farmers and the wider dairy industry.
For Tim and Lyndal Humphris it has been a struggle for the young family to make ends meet.
«There has certainly been some very dark days as to whether we can pull through or not.»
«Certainly there has been discussion about having to sell the farm,» said Mr Humphris whose main concern is for his kids.
«I worry for the boys. They’re 14 and 17. For boys of their age it’s a lot for them to deal with and they deal with it very well.»