Dairy farmers across Victoria stepped away from the farm for a day in April to learn firsthand about the priorities for the dairy industry.
The 40th United Dairyfarmers of Victoria annual conference, which saw about 90 people gather at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Friday, April 15, focused on the agenda items for the UDV, VFF and other representative organisations in the upcoming year.
Social licensing was one of the main issues covered, which UDV president Adam Jenkins said was a focus on how farmers would drive discussion about their right to farm.
``It’s about how we engage in the debate and helping the consumers understand the way we operate … particularly in light of population movement and supermarkets moving towards stricter animal welfare codes,’’ Mr Jenkins said.
VFF president Peter Tuohey said the group has lobbied the Victorian Government to protect farmers’ right to farm.
``We argued for greater transparency in planning permit requirements,’’ Mr Tuohey said.
He said the growth of regional and urban centres had pushed people into farming areas, and he cited recent cases where encroachment issues had been stirred.
``Some (city) people don’t like what they’re seeing ... there is dirt, dust, noise and cows moving to the dairy at 5am.
``Tree and sea-changers need to realise that the dust, smell and noise are part of everyday life in the farming zone.’’
Planning permits were creating costly issues for farming, Mr Tuohey said, and the VFF had argued that extensive industries such as dairy should not require a planning permit.
``Currently, feed pads don’t require a permit, but under some arcane state government regulations there is a permit requirement when over 50 per cent of the feed is brought in.’’
Mr Tuohey said this needed to change as it was prohibitive to people who were trying to expand their farming business.
He said while intensive farming practices such as piggeries, broiler sheds and cattle feedlots should require permits, other farming operations, including dairy, should simply be a right within a farming zone.
The VFF met with Planning Minister Richard Wynne following the conference and discussed the different types of farming industries and the difference between intensive and extensive farming practices.
He said Mr Wynne was ``very receptive’’ to the discussion.
At the conference, Mr Tuohey also expressed concern about the future of dairying, particularly because of the water issues.
``If water (for productive use) moves out of the district, dairying becomes less viable.’’
Corporate money was driving competition for water, and big growth industries such as almonds were adding pressure to dairy farmers, Mr Tuohey said.
He said dairy should be prioritised because, unlike some industries which fluctuated, dairy’s economic activity had been stable for a long time.
Conference resolutions were established and will now become a significant part of the UDV agenda in 2016.