Farmers seek positive outcome

By Country News

About 20 dairy farmers attended the Australian Dairy Plan meeting in Cohuna, many of whom were interested in a way forward rather than dwelling on the problems of the past.

There was a cross representation of business from large farmers to small, pasture-based to total mixed rations, young and old.

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 of courses 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.

More than two-thirds of the people at the workshop called for reforms in water policy that work towards a moratorium on new water licences, transparency in water trading and better eduction on irrigated agriculture, making it the top priority.

Milk pricing systems 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 among processors to achieve critical mass was a key issue.

While more uptake by producers of mechanisms to understand their costs so they can make better decisions about contracts was deemed important by 46 per cent.

Cohuna dairy farmer Jodie Hay said the meeting was well run and facilitated but she wants 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,’’ Mrs Hay said.

‘‘We had some forward-thinking people in the room with some really good ideas who identified their concerns and issues well.’’