Ministers hear dairy troubles

By Geoff Adams

Dairy leaders came together at Tatura last week for a one-hour session with Victorian Agriculture Minister Jaclyn Symes and Water Minister Lisa Neville.

Although the topic was ‘dairy’ , most of the discussion revolved around water, because the high cost of inputs has been worrying farmers in northern Victoria.

The meeting was backgrounded by Murray Dairy chief executive officer Jenny Wilson, who outlined the state of the dairy industry in the region.

Ms Symes said the government was focused on a positive future for dairy in the north and was aware of the stress caused by fodder and water prices.

‘‘We have tried to get everyone at the table and we are focused on getting the industry together with government,’’ she said.

Asked about criticism of dairy industry leadership, Ms Symes said there was a variety of views about what should be done but dairy leaders had been working with government in a positive and collaborative way.

UDV president Paul Mumford said there were some immediate issues to address for the dairy industry.

‘‘What is the short-term future for farmers here in the north?’’

He urged industry leaders to make decisions as promptly has possible to make the future clearer.

‘‘Deliver the messages as soon as possible, so farmers can plan,’’ Mr Mumford said.

Ardmona farmer Jeff Odgers said there was a cross section of dairy leadership represented at the meeting.

‘‘Murray Dairy has been keeping us informed of the local settings as the season unfolds and Dairy Australia has had a key part in that,’’ Mr Odgers said.

‘‘Recently we have met with the ministers’ officers to keep them informed. Hopefully we can get some continued improvement in the seasonal settings.

‘‘Everyone realises that we have been in an extraordinarily difficult place.

‘‘Most farmers are short — of feed on-farm, cash and short on confidence.

‘‘Today was about bringing the water sector together with dairy as the two are intrinsically linked.’’

After the meeting, Ms Symes visited a Picola dairy farm as part of a familiarisation tour.