Water dominates dairy forum

By Rodney Woods

A stronger water policy, a clear position from governments on where they think the industry is heading and streamlining dairy advocacy groups were the major discussion topics at the Australian Dairy Plan workshop at Tatura last week.

About 50 people, mostly farmers, were asked a series of questions, with answers collected and then graphed and shown to the room.

It was no surprise that more than 80 per cent of those who attended said a stronger water policy was needed for the dairy industry to remain sustainable going forward.

Kyabram sharefarmer Chris Blackberry admitted he was not one to normally attend events like this, but the time to lobby was now.

‘‘The number one issue is water,’’ Mr Blackberry said.

‘‘It’s the biggest issue in this area and I’m a sharefarmer and seeing farmer after farmer disappear is becoming disconcerting.

‘‘The whole area is haemorrhaging so that’s why I’m here today,’’ he said.

‘‘I don’t normally go to these things but have taken an interest in the recent election and I am really pushing to have something changed.’’

Girgarre farmer Neil Maudsley agreed that water was northern Victoria’s biggest concern.

‘‘Water is the most pressing issue,’’ Mr Maudsley said.

‘‘We have to make changes there — that’s the one that’s hurting everyone the most.’’

While every dairy region had its own issues, Undera farmer Gemma Rentsch said a national approach should be the priority.

‘‘While we recognise we have issues in our own area we need to focus on the big picture, national issues to begin with to get some big changes across the whole industry,’’ Ms Rentsch said.

Streamlining dairy advocacy groups was also a priority, with Mr Blackberry saying multiple groups were getting farmers nothing.

‘‘The other part is there are so many different groups advocating for us and we are getting nothing, we really need to streamline it.’’

Looking forward, Mr Blackberry said in five years he would like to see the current Murray-Darling Basin Plan scrapped, while Mr Maudsley said he wanted better recognition for milk and for the industry to get on the front foot and educate people about the end product.

But it was Ms Rentsch who summed up what everyone involved in the industry was aspiring to achieve.

‘‘Ultimately, I’d like to see a proactive and financially stable and profitable dairy industry.’’