Farmers want greater voice

By Dairy News

WESTERN VICTORIAN farmers want their voice to be heard more strongly as part of future planning for the dairy industry.

More than 150 farmers and dairy industry personnel have given a mixed response to the first of the Australian Dairy Plan workshops in western Victoria.

A total of 161 people attended the workshops at Koroit, Cobden and Colac, with about 75 per cent of participants being dairy farmers. Cobden had the biggest turnout with 70 people attending.

The workshops were facilitated by consultants Nous as part of a nationwide consultation for the Australian Dairy Plan which is collectively being led by Dairy Australia, Australian Dairy Farmers, Australian Dairy Products Federation and Gardiner Dairy Foundation.

WestVic Dairy executive officer Lindsay Ferguson, who attended all three sessions, said the reaction was mixed.

Mr Ferguson said the top issues at the three sessions were advocacy and how the industry could be best represented to government and other decision-makers in a united way.

“Farmers were concerned about getting their voice across better,” Mr Ferguson said.

“There were some good questions asked but there was a mixed atmosphere with some farmers not realising who is responsible for advocacy.”

Simpson farmer Aaron Crole said he was pleased the plan was being developed but worried that it shouldn't be ruled by negativity and outdated attitudes.

“It's a good step to reassess the industry,” Mr Crole said.

“Things have changed since the last dairy plan so we need to keep moving it forward.”

Mr Crole said farmers wanted streamlined representation.

“It's come out that the advocacy of the industry is too top heavy so it should even itself out. There are too many up at the top; we want the ordinary farm to be heard,” he said.

Mr Crole was also concerned that younger farmers be considered.

“Older generations have seen a lot of what the industry has been through but it's hard for us younger farmers when all we hear is negativity and we've done that before,” he said.

“We haven't been there so we don't know the past and that's frustrating. You don't want the older generation holding the young ones back because they don't want to change.”

Rachael McGrath attended the Koroit meeting and hopes the plan will reinvigorate the industry.

“There's a huge lack of faith in the dairy industry at the moment and my parents are worried about my future as a young farmer,” she said.

Ms McGrath said the plan should try to create more avenues for young farmers to progress in the industry.

She said farmers also wanted more transparency from the processors.

“Everyone wants to know how and where they get paid and be able to understand it a bit better,” Ms McGrath said.

“I hope something good comes from it. They wanted us to rate what we thought of the day and as much as it was good to have this opportunity, you can't really rate it until you see any outcomes.”

Mr Ferguson said comments from the three western Victorian workshops would be collated as part of feedback from 24 workshops leading to a national forum in late July and development of a draft strategy.

“The four bodies needed to refresh their strategic plans and decided to come together collectively to do a five-year plan and then base their own organisational strategies off that,” he said.

“The strategy is for the whole of the supply chain, not just for farmers and everyone is encouraged to have their say.”