Concerned for industry

By Sophie Baldwin

Nathan Ferguson travelled to the United We Stand meeting from Barham because he is concerned about the future of his business and the industry as a whole.

The young farmer will milk 250 to 300 cows this season.

He said the milk price and the continually rising cost of production was making it harder and harder to get by.

‘‘I would just like to be able to run my business and pay my creditors within their terms. The fixed costs to produce milk in northern Victoria are too high and we can’t be expected to continue to absorb these rising costs on a milk price that isn’t keeping up,’’ Mr Ferguson said.

‘‘There are several different ways to acquire a dairy farm; we had to purchase ours, and with that comes every little thing from a shovel and pliers through to tractors and machinery — it all costs money.

‘‘We have to have reasonable equipment because we are operating on limited labour and everything needs to be working in good order — labour is hard to find and it is cheaper to just do the bulk of the work ourselves.

‘‘You can do a certain amount of things on the cheap but farming that way will catch up with you in the end. I wouldn’t think there would be too many people in the industry able to grow their equity at the moment.’’

Mr Ferguson said volatility of water in northern Victoria was a huge threat to the industry with prices ranging from $80 to $200/Ml this year alone.

‘‘Milk companies are doing analysis on our water use because they are starting to realise how exposed they are — volatility in the northern Victorian water industry is not only seriously affecting the farmer, it’s starting to affect everyone.

‘‘People tell us to buy low reliability water shares and carryover water — but we never have any leftover cash to implement these type of risk management strategies in the first place.

‘‘We can barely handle our normal bills, let alone any additional costs.’’

This is the sixth season Mr Ferguson has been operating his own dairy business.

‘‘The first couple of years were good but the last four have been like groundhog day. It seems like we just finish paying off a particular bill — and bang, it’s back again.’’

He said a lack of money in the dairy industry put pressure on rural businesses.

‘‘Our creditors are stuck in this game along with us; this affects the whole community.’’

Mr Ferguson said he liked the idea of United We Stand but its success would depend on unity among the group.

‘‘Things need to be formalised and there will be costs associated with establishing this as a professional entity. I think there has been support here today because at the end of the day milk price is not acceptable and this needs to change or we won’t have an industry in the future.’’