Dairy expo raises issues
GROWTH of farming, carbon tax and the lack of young people entering the industry were hot issues during a debate at the South Gippsland Dairy Expo at Korumburra last Thursday.
The team of expert panellists included Murray Goulburn’s Robert Poole and John Mulvany from On Farm Consulting.
Matt Harms, also of On Farm Consulting, grilled the panel with questions about the past, present and future of dairy farming.
The changing shape of the family farm was an issue raised.
“Family farming and complex business co-operatives are becoming one and the same,” Mr Poole said.
“The lines are starting to blur between the two, which may be a good thing.”
Mr Mulvany said the families will have to be the ones to keep dairy farming growing.
“Families will still be the ideal scenario for a farm because it’s what they do best,” he said.
“Family farms are key to a growing industry.”
Even though on the panel there was an example of young people who may take over the family farm in the future – Scott and Tamara Loughridge of Poowong North – this is rare amongst the younger generation.
“We need to make farming more attractive to the young people,” Scott and Tamara’s father Brett said.
“I’m not going to pressure my kids into the farm but the offer is there for them to take over if they choose.”
The panel, although concerned about carbon tax, was adamant that farmers will adapt.
“If you do nothing then the carbon tax will cause problems, but dairy farmers are great at adapting to change,” Neil Baker from the Macalister Research Farm said.
“It will be just another challenge that the industry will face and we should be able to cope.”
As Murray Goulbourn is in the top 500 polluters in Australia, the question was moved to Mr Poole of how MG would minimise the cost to farmers.
“We use lots of gas on two of our sites and that’s why we are placed in the category,” he said.
“The ADF and UDV have done an excellent job working to minimise the tax for dairy farmers. We’re doing all we can to get the cost down too so we are ready for when it comes into play.”
The predicted annual cost of the carbon tax for a Murray Goulburn supplier will be $5000.
Panellists were asked what they would have changed in the past and what they want to see in the future.
Paul Stampton, strategic planning and development with South Gippsland Shire Council, would like to see more preservation of the land for the industry and looking forward rather than backwards.
Mr Mulvany raised the point about society’s respect for farmers.
“The general population doesn’t understand farming and doesn’t see farmers as the food producers that they are,” he said.
“Australia should understand and respect the industry.”
Promoting the image of farming was something nearly all the panellists agreed would help address the lack of young people on the farm.
Nuffield Scholar and Fish Creek dairy farmer Graeme Nicoll raised the next point.
“We need to not confuse production with profitability,” he said.
Many other panellists agreed farmers should know their limits on what they can manage, especially in the changing economic environment.
Mr Poole commended the dairy industry for its resilience in the past decade.
“We’ve had one of the worst droughts, been put through a crippling world economy and the GFC, and the industry is still going strong,” he said.
Short URL: /?p=1868