Tough Food Safety Laws Blamed for Farm Closure

The closure last year of Tasmania’s only organic dairy farm, which the owner blamed on tougher food safety laws, looks set to be reversed.
July 1, 2015

The owner of Tasmania’s only organic dairy farm has blamed its closure last year on tougher food safety regulations. 
However, in an effort to resume operations, a fundraising campaign was launched, which has risen over AUD $200,000.

Elgaar Farm, which is located in the Meander Valley, halted dairy production in July last year following an inspection carried out by the Tasmanian Dairy Industry Authority (TDIA).

The farm, which is based on traditional ‘Bavarian’ practices and describes itself as, ‘a farm that makes the best, most ethical dairy produce that you can buy’, was found by the TDIA to have a number of food safety-related issues.

Joe Gretschmann, who along with his wife own of the farm, told the ABC that some of the TDIA’s issues were due to the dairy’s wooden infrastructure and whitewashed walls. Mr Gretschmann blames the closing of the farm on bureaucracy and said that there was never a risk to public health.

‘There was some red tape involved and I would say there was some unwillingness there to help us overcome those problems,’ Mr Gretschamann said.

Save Elgaar Farm Campaign

In an effort to reopen the dairy by this coming August, Elgaar Farm has reached out to the community for financial support. So far more than AUD $210,000 of the AUD $250,000 target has been raised through an online Crowdfunding fundraising campaign which is set to end tonight.

When explaining why the farm should be saved, the campaign states that ‘for almost 12 months we’ve been shut down by the local dairy authorities because we don’t fit the modern mould. Because of this, our financial resources have been drained while we’ve struggled to meet their new regulations.’

According to the fundraising budget, the money raised will be spent on factory maintenance; more cows; start-up costs and future wages; debt consolidation; and costs accumulated while the farm was not operating.

The farm also plans on using AUD $35,000 to upgrade the existing pasteuriser, which also reportedly failed the TDIA’s inspection.

TDIA to have Final Say

When the government was asked about the issue, the Minister for Primary Industries, Jeremy Rockliff, explained that food safety regulations were needed to help protect Tasmania’s brand.

“Food safety is critical to protecting the health of Tasmanians and maintaining confidence in our dairy products,” he said.

According to the ABC, TDIA representatives have advised the Gretschamann’s of what needs to be done before the farm can be reopened.

Regardless of whether or not the Gretschamann’s achieve their fundraising goals, the TDIA will still have to give its approval before the dairy farm can actually be reopened and return to the business of producing organic cheese, milk and yoghurt.

"At this stage, Elgaar or its representatives do not have a new licence application before the authority for consideration,’ said the TDIA statement.

"If they do apply, the application will be assessed in line with the standard procedures."