Little bang for buck

By Country News

Katunga dairy farmers Tim and Bridget Goulding have seen the pros and cons of Dairy Australia.

With so many lobby and advocacy groups, Mrs Goulding questions the need for them all.

And with the Australian Dairy Plan set to spark more debate around the industry, she said making farmers feel they were getting value for money was key.

‘‘You’ve got big levies going out of dairy cheques and not much happening on-farm,’’ Mrs Goulding said.

‘‘Farmers are already running about as efficient as they can get.

‘‘You may as well pay a bill that’s a bit of use to you.’’

But there are positives to what Dairy Australia provides, according to Mr Goulding.

Hay and grain price reports and guidance around how to purchase and budget feed during drought had been helpful tools to back up planning, he said.

‘‘I am less impressed with the current emphasis on a dairy plan that includes DA merging with ADIC (Australian Dairy Industry Council) and the Gardiner Foundation to plan for the future,’’ he said.

‘‘Their list of current challenges reads like their specialist subject is stating the bleeding obvious. I get queasy when they are working with entities that get a lot of funding from processors because I don’t think you could argue that all dairy processors have been enhancing the industry since 2016.

‘‘With the current challenges of drought and the basin plan in the north, I think a more nuts-and-bolts approach to dairy research and development for farmers as a separate entity to processors is what is required.’’

Timmering’s Scott Somerville said he was ‘‘horrified’’ about how Dairy Australia spent his levy.

The dairy farmer said he struggled to see what he got in return and even if there were positives, Dairy Australia was not marketing its wins well.

‘‘Something needs to be done,’’ he said.

‘‘Things are tough, production is dropping.

‘‘There’s just too much research into robotic dairies and other way-out ideas.’’

With dry conditions and high water prices, Mr Somerville said dairy farmers found it hard to justify their levy when they were ‘‘hanging on by their teeth’’.

‘‘They don’t run much by us ... We just want to survive.’’

The appointment of John Brumby as the independent chair of the Australian Dairy Plan has also hit a nerve with Mr Somerville.

He said given Mr Brumby’s history with the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, the north-south pipeline and his lack of dairy experience, he thought his appointment was ‘‘horrifying’’.