The majority of dairy farmers in attendance at the Cohuna meeting were interested in a way forward, rather than dwelling on problems of the past.
Young and old, big or small, pasture based or total mixed ration — there was a strong cross representation of different farming business in the room and while the mood was far from upbeat, the people in the room were determined to voice their opinions and navigate their way forward through positive discussion and exploration of ideas.
Priority issues were reforms in water policy, milk pricing and developing a simple system so farmers can better structure their business, opportunities to encourage new entrants into the industry (both young and old), longer term contracts with processors, tackling the disconnect between consumers and the farm gate, along with more uptake by farmers to understand their costs and therefore make better business decisions.
When the question was asked of the room — what are the most important changes and key priorities for the dairy plan? — water came out on top.
Milk pricing system that farmers can understand to help structure their business, pricing signals that encourage efficiency at the farm gate, spot pricing and contracts came in as the second most important issue, with 57 per cent in support of reforms.
Fifty per cent of the room said assessing opportunities, pricing and cost efficiency through the whole supply chain to encourage collaboration amongst processors to achieve critical mass was a key issue.
Mincha dairy farmer April Kunde attended and thought it was a good opportunity to voice what she saw as problems within the industry.
“It depends what they do with results and whether or not any of it translates into action,” Ms Kunde said.
“At least Dairy Australia are talking to us now where as before, they used to do things without us having a say at all, especially considering our industry is on the verge of collapse.”
Ms Kunde said representation within the dairy industry had been terrible and no-one had defended the industry at all.
“Something needs to change, and we need someone to speak out for us; it is frustrating to see fees go out of our milk check to groups who do nothing for us and don't step in to promote our industry."
Cohuna dairy farmer Jodie Hay said the meeting was well run and facilitated but she wanted to see clear objectives, goals and strategies in the plan.
“We don't want to see the plan ticked off and put away in some glossy folder. We had some forward-thinking people in the room with some really good ideas who identified their concerns and issues well,” Ms Hay said.