Letters to the Editor

By Country News

Fearful for the dairy industry’s future

After 55 years of dairy farming in the Goulburn Valley, I am truly concerned for the remainder of the industry.

For 40 years we were able to utilise the plentiful water supply from the amazing man-made dams and water reserves.

It isn’t too often that challenges continue along such a detrimental path for more than a few seasons, or a few years, but for the past 15 years the overwhelming challenges have left many unable to cope.

Far from acceptable milk prices, another disaster; many generational farmers have left their lives on the land and many have lost their life.

The ‘succession planning’ that has been emphasised and encouraged in the past decade, has really become just a useless term.

The water that was once for our soldier settlers and the attraction which allowed our food bowl to flourish, has virtually disappeared, due to the asset being traded as a commodity.

Individuals and groups who have no physical need for water trading, other than to boost their wealth, have completely out-priced the asset to the extent that farmers cannot possibly afford to farm in a profitable manner.

The consequences extend into all country towns.

Population suffers, schools and small businesses suffer and close their doors. Many farmers cannot return a net profit, while they are keeping up with inflated debts.

The farms forced to sell have possibly sold off land to neighbours, some able to retain their home and some not.

The sale of livestock that may help reduce some debt initially, has then seen consequences — causing unproductive land to go to ruin, because there is no further income to spray and maintain the land, as it was intended.

Farmers pay for the water and infrastructure levies, regardless of whether they even get the water to use, or not.

Those who have been convinced they could survive on the temporary water system are also vulnerable to the availability and fluctuating market values, which also varies around four to five times its usual value.

Temporary water should not exceed $100/Ml.

Adequate and affordable water availability in spring could have saved many crops from failing.

In this year of drought, autumn irrigation will be imperative and, if not, will most certainly see the end for many more farmers.

—Ron Baker