By Shaughn Morgan - Dairy Connect
New South Wales and in fact Australia faces great challenges at the moment, challenges that are unprecedented for most of us. The newly seen coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, is set to put a great deal of pressure on our healthcare system within rural communities, which will be impacting those farming communities hardest which are already underserved with access to healthcare facilities.
This comes on top of other lingering issues that continue to obstruct the way for a successful rebuild of the Australian dairy industry. Challenges such as low farmgate dairy prices that are still hovering below the cost of production; the growing number of families exiting the industry, in many cases through no fault of their own; the drought, resulting high cost for fodder and forage crops; skyrocketing energy costs as well as the ongoing recovery from bushfires and floods.
Even given these issues, Australian farmers continue to ensure that fresh produce is available for purchase in supermarkets (and elsewhere) throughout the country. Ensuring that food is available for a families’ table.
Agriculture must be considered an essential industry, just like police and health care workers. Farmers provide, and will continue to do so, fresh produce and in the case of the dairy industry, nutritious milk on a daily basis, 24/7.
It is interesting to note that Rabobank’s new farm confidence survey released recently indicates the global coronavirus outbreak has not dented farmer confidence about prospects for the coming year.
Yet, the effects will be felt throughout the community for many months to come. The shut-down and cancellation of events such as the Sydney Royal will have effects well beyond now and the impacts on our social and economic lives will not end there. As the Government has now announced, we are all doing our part in containing the spread of the virus, by reconsidering travel plans, night-outs and family visits, especially if elderly people and those with pre-existing illnesses are present.
In summary, this is not the time to panic but to apply common sense, business savviness and compassion with our fellow man, something the farming community has always exceeded in, especially in hard times like these.
We will continue to be provide support for our family, farming colleagues and friends both now and into the future. This is what we do best. The dairy industry will be part of Australia, long after COVID-19 has passed.
Envisaging the future of the dairy industry, the Joint Transition Team of the Australian Dairy Plan has released their report in early 2020 and Dairy Connect will be providing feedback.
In summary, the Joint Transition Team proposes the formation of a united industry body, that would be levy funded. This new body would engage in research and development as well as advocacy and marketing of Australian dairy products in a similar fashion as Australian Pork Limited does. Details of the proposed model may be found at https://www.dairyplan.com.au/key-documents
While the proposed plan is not a perfect one, it will allow ongoing discussion as to a model that best suits the Australian dairy market. There are still issues to address and Dairy Connect will maintain an open mind as to the way in which this will be implemented into the future.
It is important for every stakeholder in the industry to stay engaged in the unfolding debate over industry representation, as this will shape the way the Australian dairy industry is represented for years to come. Dairy Connect believes that bringing together all parties involved under one, levy-funded roof may present an opportunity.
The Australian Dairy Plan aims to rally the industry to set a clear vision and purpose for the next five years and beyond. It is meant to provide a blueprint in which the industry can operate and deliver a collective strategy.
By mid-year, the Australian dairy industry is likely to vote on whether it will be represented by a single body responsible for advocacy as well as for research and development. There is still much to be told about the plan and the model that the JTT is recommending.
Dairy producer, processor and key stakeholder input must be considered at all stages of this process.
All options need to be canvassed but in a democratic manner – open, transparent and ensuring the maintenance of integrity and equity.
Dairy Connect has called also for the urgent establishment of a minimum farmgate milk price to be paid to dairy farmers nationally.
A fixed minimum price would assist a return to profitable production for most and would help stem the numbers of producers abandoning dairying.
Another topic that had a sizable impact on the way we as the Australian dairy industry are conducting business, was the introduction of the mandatory code. To assist dairy farmers in understanding how the new code will impact business practices, Dairy Connect held seminars at Casino, the South Coast and most recently in Tamworth.
While the coronavirus may impact our ability to hold future seminars, I would be interested in your feedback about whether we should hold a ‘webinar’ on the matter so that those who could not attend can still be updated as to the impact of the code. Please get in touch with me via firstname.lastname@example.org or call me directly (0401 421 214) to let me know.
In conclusion, while the coronavirus adds itself to an ever-growing list of issues concerning us as an industry, please make sure to check out the government assistance package (more details in the newsletter) and see whether this will provide any help in running your farming enterprise.
The coming months might be tough for us as an industry, but we have shown outstanding resilience before and we will into the future.
Yours at Dairy Connect