IT WAS inevitable that Murray Goulburn would be forced to contract its production base at Leongatha, and unfortunately, reduce employment levels at the plant.
Over the past five years in particular, other dairy firms, especially Burra Foods, have been chipping away at MG’s supply to build up their operations, which has been a very commendable outcome especially at Korumburra.
But it only serves to illustrate that there simply isn’t enough milk being produced to satisfy the growing markets in Asia, especially China.
As well as announcing its need to contract, at this stage, Murray Goulburn has committed to the commendable goal of trying to expand milk supply and support the entry of new or young farmer suppliers.
But they should not have to, literally, carry the can on this one alone.
All firms, together with the State and Federal governments, need to be prepared to do the heavy lifting on this one.
The level of investment needed to get into a viable dairy farm these days is simply too onerous and there needs to be new models of entry and new incentives for getting others into the field.
There are billions in export dollars at stake.
Otherwise, who’s going to spend $4 million to buy themselves a seven day-a-week, 24-hour-a-day job!
Lack of retirement and succession planning is another problem plaguing success in this important industry.
While farmers in almost every other country on the planet are given encouragement by their governments, we seem to be the only ones operating on a ‘level playing field’.
But here’s an opportunity for government to legitimately assist in building up the dairy industry by offering low interest loans, tax incentives and the like for new and young farmers trying to enter the industry.
Also on the issue of legitimate and necessary support for the nation’s farmers come the news that we long suspected, that the Abbott-Truss Coalition has killed Landcare.
For weeks we have been trying to get confirmation on what the $484 million cut to Landcare in the Federal Budget meant to the sector – now we know.
At a Senate Estimates’ hearing last Friday, under questioning from the Australian Greens spokesperson for Agriculture, Senator Rachel Siewert, Department of Agriculture officials confirmed that there will be no money for new Landcare grants between now and 2018.
Landcare groups play a critical role in bringing the community together to solve local environmental issues and every dollar the government invests, the community invests four to five dollars more to attack weeds, plant trees, stop erosion, build protective fences and undertake various other projects in partnership.
Also, Landcare grants are used to leverage community priorities in environmental management.
If this true, about the grants, then hundreds of Landcare groups in Victoria and Australia are at risk.
Landcare represents one of the government’s opportunities to help farmers by protecting and enhancing the rural environment and if this change is allowed to stand it will be an absolute tragedy for region’s like Bass Coast and South Gippsland which have such a rich history of volunteer involvement and commitment to Landcare.
Over to you, Mr Broadbent, Mr Hunt, Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce and others to “please explain” this decision.