Dairy

Farmer: without water, five-year plan useless

By Country News

Echuca dairy farmer Steve Hawken contributes about $12000 to Dairy Australia through compulsory levies, but says he’s been let down by the organisation a number of times.

‘‘Over the last three years I have completed DA’s annual survey and every time I have been told ‘yes, Mr Hawken, someone higher up the line will contact you’, and — surprise surprise — I am still waiting. I don’t think a phone call is too much to ask for someone who has paid $36000, over the last three years.

‘‘Dairy Australia seem to have forgotten they are paid by dairy farmers to represent and work for us.’’

The introduction of the five-year Australian Dairy Plan has also angered Mr Hawken.

He said the future of the dairy industry was uncertain in the next five weeks, let alone the next five years, and was angry that John Brumby was appointed independent chair of the dairy plan, without any farmer consultation.

‘‘We need to have someone in the role that dairy farmers respect,’’ Mr Hawken said.

‘‘Brumby sold us down the north south pipeline years ago. He refused to listen to us then when we told him it was going to be a white elephant, I can’t imagine he has changed now.

‘‘We are facing a real crisis, people are exiting the industry at an alarming rate because of the high cost of production and yet nothing is being done to address the issues.

‘‘Here in northern Victoria water policy and irrigation is the single most important issue we face and yet there is no mention of that in John Brumby’s speech at the Trans-Tasman Dairy Leaders Forum, nor did he mention the other pressing problem of where our dairy farmers are going to come from in the future,’’ he said.

‘‘Without irrigation water or young farmers, we don’t even have a future in northern Victoria.

‘‘Why are they coming to us farmers and asking our input for the dairy plan, which they will ignore anyway? Aren’t they paid millions of dollars a year to know where our industry is sitting?

‘‘They appear to have no defined positive pathway.’’

Mr Hawken said Dairy Australia ran outdated courses to justify its relevance and then expected farmers to pay $180 to participate.

He felt its consultation periods were for appearances only and firmly believed DA had run its race — and it was time for change.