THE AUSTRALIAN Dairy Plan has certainly got the dairy industry thinking as meetings were held across the country through June and it seems no matter where people farm, issues and concerns are similar across the country.
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) and 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.
The dairy industry also needs to promote itself on the wealth it generates and the flow-on effect every dollar spent has on rural communities.
Research and development is also another area farmers would like to see improved.
Four meetings, two local engagement meetings at Beaudesert and Nanango and a meeting at Toowoomba (31 dairy farmers in attendance) and Gympie (23).
Gympie: heat stress, infrastructure, nutrition challenges and animal welfare were all brought up as impediments for growing scale in northern dairy regions along with improving systems to recover from natural disasters and resilience against parasites and other insects.
Toowoomba: farmers need to swallow their pride and start talking to processors, who are part of the problem and therefore part of the solution.
Two meetings, Smithton and Deloraine (40).
Deloraine: develop a centre for dairy education to train those who want a career in dairy; train people in the science to bring new skills to the industry; develop a scheme for farmers to be able to access finance more easily (maybe an equity position not a debt position) building on what exists.
Smithton: improve clarity labelling country of origin; don't allow plant juices to be labelled as milk; health star ratings; develop a group or a body to go around and speak to successful industry people and share their stories, in the media and on social media.
Seven meetings, one local engagement at Dorrigo and meetings at Finley (14 farmers), Taree (30), Muswellbrook (14), Lismore (21), Bega (22), and Nowra (23).
Taree: investment in major water security infrastructure, for example, dams; introduction of a dairy or agriculture commissioner for advocacy, i.e. free trade agreements.
Muswellbrook: encourage young people under 40 into the industry through government incentives or tax breaks.
Lismore: payments for good stewardship, i.e. environmental rebate on products given back to those who comply with standards (regenerative agriculture); two advocacy bodies, one for exporters and one for liquid milk.
Bega: give farmers transparency in how funding is raised, spent and a say on where to direct it; protect farmers from animal activists.
Nowra: legislative change to create a recognised brand for 'made from Australian dairy'; declare a 'force majure' due to drought and build into contracts; curriculum change to make agriculture taken seriously in schools.
Dorrigo: better links to secondary schools for dairy career pathways; pay less research and development levies but pay directly for training courses.
Western Australia meetings
One meeting was held at Bunbury with 22 farmers in attendance.
Bunbury: build a state-of-the-art processing facility in Western Australia and grow farms to support it; investigate changes to the 457 visa to allow right skills on farm.
Two meetings, Mt Barker (20 farmers) and Mt Gambier (30 people all together).
Mt Gambier: farmers need to develop a quality over quantity mindset — don't be pushed into milking more cows.
Mt Barker: Canada model, a price you can work within with supply and price management (subject to ACCC approval).
Nine meetings, Wodonga (14 farmers), Cohuna (21), Koroit (38), Cobden (54), Colac(26), Tatura (26), Warragul, Maffra and Leongatha.
Wodonga: bring agenda as farmers back to local government, demonstrate our value to local shires that do not support us enough.
Cohuna: improve practices that generate negative publicity like bull calves, new industries grow from this?
Tatura: get mechanisms to deal with the 'new normal' — how to deal with multiple dry seasons; take back control of our levies with more farmer oversight.
Cobden: work towards no special deals, i.e. volume to keep little farms involved; change the culture of dairy to be more positive and unified.
Colac: explore ways of producer groups increasing buying power/hedging (subject to approval); free-up Gardiner Foundation funding and disperse.
Koroit: learn from New Zealand but more importantly what they are doing recently, i.e. adding value, not volume; help young people get into market by having contracted agreements, i.e. 'lease to buy' arrangements.