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TAS Country : December 8th 2011
Friday, December 9, 2011 Tasmanian Country 7 Your Say Industry milked dry NOT ALL ROSY: Some dairy farmers are struggling. IT is about time someone wrote to say what is actually happening in the dairy industry and the situation a lot of farmers are finding themselves in. I am sick of reading articles about the booming dairy industry, this is simply just not true. The dairy industry in this state is in trouble, there are farmers going into receivership, farmers who are being forced to sell off their assets to survive. The milk companies in this state are paying a non viable price for milk and our so-called representatives are quite happy with the price being paid to the farmers. While I will give the Dairy Tas execu- tive 10 out of 10 for putting a positive outlook to the media and the general public about the dairy industry, I believe they are doing the industry a disservice. By portraying the industry as booming, it is not telling the farmers' creditors the reality as to what is happening. Everyone in Australia is given the perception that Tasmanian dairy farmers are making a fortune. While it is very positive that all this money is being invested by the dairy companies by expanding in the state, there is a reason for this and that is we produce the cheapest milk in Australia and we seem to have resigned ourselves to accepting this. With all the expansion in the industry and all the extra milk that is going to be needed, where do they think the milk is going to come from. Where are the cows going to come from? These milk companies just couldn't care less about what happens to the farmer just as long as they can show a profit. What happens to the large number of dairy farmers who want to sell up because they have had enough of working 12 to 14 hours a day, seven days a week only to make a loss? Three years ago, everything was look- ing good, you had the banks knocking at your door to lend you money. We were told by the banks' smart economists that we could expect 50c a litre for the next five years. What happened? Six months after that prediction the global financial crisis hit home. But instead of admitting they got it wrong, the banks blamed the farmers for poor management for borrowing too much money, as to why they were struggling financially. What a joke. So to Dairy Tas and the TFGA, wake up and tell everyone what is really happening out there. Steve Cripps Exton Opinion Air of optimism among farmers TFGA matters with Jan Davis 'Clearly, given the right operating environment, agriculture is a key part of the solution to the state's financial woes.' DECEMBER is often a time for reflection --- on the year almost past and also on the year to come. I've spent some time on planes recently with time to consider, and I thought I'd share my thoughts. Like most years in farm- ing, 2011 has been a bit like the curate's egg -- good in parts. A very wet start hit some farmers hard -- with floods and water damage to crops impacting severely. However, most farmers have found 2011 overall to be a good year. Commodity prices are up, the weather has been relatively kind and there's an air of optimism in the agricultural sector. Certainly, there have been some very positive developments over recent times in a policy sense. Agriculture is a corner- stone of the Tasmanian economy, generating almo- st $2 billion at farm gate this year. This is about 10 per cent of the overall state income, and one in every three dollars of private sector income; and we employ (directly and indirectly) one in every seven Tasmanians. Take into account pri- vate forestry and that fig- ure increases by about $600 million a year. Our industry has grown year on year -- even during tough times like the recent drought -- which is a per- formance not matched by any other sector. Farming has kept not only Tasmania but also Australia out of recession since the GFC. Professor Jonathan West has identified agri- culture as one of the key opportunities for growth in the economy of the state. In the Innovations Strat- egy he prepared for the State Government, he identified that we could generate a further $5 bil- lion a year. Agriculture is also tar- geted as one of the key targets for growth in the recent State Economic De- velopment Plan, where the Government puts forward a vision for Tasmania to substantially increase its food and agriculture pro- duction and become a ma- jor supplier of the nation's premium food products. Recognising this, the Government has sup- ported development of irri- gation infrastructure and committed to some other supportive programs. They have also funded TFGA to develop a stra- tegic plan for agriculture to underpin their EDP -- but more of that later. On paper, then, the fu- ture of agriculture in Tas- mania looks very positive. Unfortunately, the re- ality on the ground shows a very different picture. You may forgive those of us who work in the policy environment for feeling that the State Government is almost schizophrenic in the way it is approaching the agriculture sector. Some parts of govern- ment are actively promot- ing the value of agriculture and the vital role farmers play in creating wealth for all Tasmanians. Yet at the same time other parts of government seem to be doing their darndest to not only stifle growth but actually drive farmers out of business. We all recognise that regulations are a necess- ary part of everyday life. However, regulations need to be practical and based on sound evidence. There seems to be a mindset within some parts of government that they must set the highest regu- latory standards anywhere in the world -- regardless of the science and regard- less of the impact on farm businesses. At TFGA, we're con- stantly fighting proposed changes that will add sig- nificantly to the costs of farming; and in some cases seem specifically designed to shut farms down. The recently proposed regulations for use of agvet chemicals; the impact of the forestry IGA on far- mers; the changes to rules about sow stalls; the con- stant revision of regu- lations well ahead of sched- uled review times -- the list goes on and on. It is not clear of this bizarre dis- junct is deliberate or inad- vertent; and I suspect that it is simply a case of the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing. What is clear is that, unless we get a more sen- sible approach to regu- lation of the agriculture sector, then many of our farms will be driven out of the industry. We recognise the par- lous state of Tasmania's economy and we under- stand that the current set- tings are not sustainable. The Government seems single-mindedly focused on cost cutting as a means of solving the crisis we face. But cost cutting alone will not deliver the sys- temic change we need to move forward. If Tasmania was a busi- ness, and we were the board, we'd be looking for options to grow income, as well as cut costs. Yet there's been no rec- ognition at all of the other side of the state ledger in the current debate. Clearly, given the right operating environment, agriculture is a key part of the solution to the state's financial woes. But this can only happen if government understands the impacts its decisions have on farm businesses and ensures that regu- lations are not overly burdensome. If we keep down the current track of over- regulation, then we simply can't continue to absorb the costs that result. And that will put paid to our capacity to drive much needed growth for all Tasmanians. Generally, TFGA's for- tunes mirror those of our farmers: when things are tough for them; we feel the backlash; and when things are on the upswing, then the environment TFGA op- erates in also improves. 2054685-110708 JBS AUSTRALIA All types of Livestock required for processing at our Longford & Devonport Plants For a competitive price ring our Livestock Buyers today JBS Australia Tasmanian Livestock Team Tom Archer Livestock Manager M 0419 310 701 Allan Boyce Livestock Buyer M 0419 310 698 Mathew Bosworth Livestock Buyer M 0438 912 161 Gavin Coombe Livestock Buyer M 0437 228 536 JBS Australia would like to thank producers for their continued support. TASMANIAN ALKALOIDS Value Adding in Tasmania Untreated Downy Mildew will reduce your crop yield significantly. Monitor regularly and take action if necessary. 2034354-111118
December 1st 2011
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