The dairy forum held at Parliament House last week provided an important starting point in the process of industry reform in NSW.
We did not solve all the industries problems, but there is hope. That hope comes from farmer unity, support from consumers and pledges from politicians that they will step in and help.
A new era of farmer unity is simply a must. NSW Farmers and Dairy Connect joined forces to host the forum and bring in key politicians, researchers and processors.
The forum and the people that attended signified that new unity and we will continue to work together for our industry.
Consumers are doing their bit too. They have demonstrated their desire for locally produced fresh milk and many have helped out with drought support campaigns. Along with lobbying from farmer groups, this support inspired the major supermarkets to finally increase the price of their home brand milk.
The final piece of hope comes from bipartisan support for dairy farmers. While there may not be full agreement on improving the market structure and reducing cost inputs, politicians from all sides have recognised the need to support the industry.
NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro pledged to fast-track the introduction of the national Mandatory Dairy Code of Conduct while speaking at the forum and Minister for Agriculture Adam Marshall said he would achieve the commitment to appoint a NSW Fresh Milk Advocate.
There was clear support across all the parties present at the forum that industry progress needs to be closely monitored by parliament, potentially with the re-establishment of a parliamentary inquiry.
There is no doubt that farmers are doing it tough in this unprecedented drought, but there is sense of cohesion in the NSW dairy sector and that brings hope.
- Colin Thompson is chair of the NSW Farmers Dairy Committee.