Farmers raise issues

By Sophie Baldwin

The first phase of consultations for the Australian Dairy Plan was completed last week, with the last public consultations held.

The meetings showed every state believes the industry needs to be united in advocacy through a single representative body.

Milk price is also a major issue — from milk being undervalued by processors through to complicated payment systems.

A floor price for liquid milk was also mentioned.

Processor pressure (undervaluing milk), consolidation (too much stainless steel in the country) and supermarket power were common issues, with some meetings calling for the end of supermarket branded products.

Educating the Australian public on the clean, green product the industry produces also featured as a popular issue, along with promoting the health benefits of dairy — many farmers feel the industry has really let itself down on this particular point.

Farmers also felt the dairy industry needs to promote itself on the wealth it generates and the flow-on effect every dollar spent has on rural communities.

The meetings highlighted many farmers are concerned about the future of the industry and would like to see some sort of support or pathway introduced to encourage young or new people into the industry, along with better education and business training.

Research and development is also another area farmers would like to see improved, especially when it comes to developing new species of grass — more mass with less water use.

In northern Victoria and the southern Riverina, water policy and the Murray-Darling Basin Plan were high on the agenda.

At the Victorian meetings, the attendance recorded was: Wodonga (14 farmers), Cohuna (21), Koroit (38), Cobden (54), Colac (26) and Tatura (26). Meetings were also held in Warragul, Maffra and Leongatha.

At Wodonga attendees wanted more backing from local government, at Cohuna they called for improved practices in areas that might generate negative publicity, and at Tatura farmers talked about mechanisms to deal with the ‘new normal’ — how to deal with multiple dry seasons. They also wanted to take back control of levies with more farmer oversight.

At Cobden there was talk about the unfairness of special deals between processors and suppliers and a need for the dairy industry culture to be more positive and unified.

At Colac farmers wanted to explore ways of producer groups increasing buying power and freeing-up Gardiner Foundation funding.

At Koroit there was interest in learning from New Zealand and adding value, not volume, and looking at helping young people get into the business market by having contracted agreements.