"THERE are things that we can't do effectively individually that we can do collectively' - that's the message Western Australian farmer Peter Evans would like fellow dairy farmers to consider in the lead-up to Dairy Poll 2022.
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WA dairy farmer Peter Evans says the dairy levy allows farmers to invest collectively in the future.

Mr Evans said he had been supporting an increase to the dairy service levy at the March poll in order to ensure continued investment in the industry’s future by Dairy Australia, for the collective benefit of all farmers.

Dairy farmers could do so much more together than individually, he said.

“For instance, I can run little experiments on my farm to answer questions I might have, but I still need the whole of industry to invest in bodies such as DairyBio and DataGene,” he said.

“That sort of research has got to be done on a whole-of-industry basis; we just cannot do it individually.

“There is no point in me running down to my local supermarket, trying to promote healthy bones – no one is going to listen to me, but if this is done on a collective basis, by professional people in an organised way, then we have far more hope of getting the message through (to consumers).

“There is also no point in me making animal welfare arguments on my own, but if we as an industry can demonstrate what we are doing animal welfare-wise, it is far more likely that it will be accepted.

“Which is why I say there are things that we can’t do effectively individually that we can do collectively.”

Mr Evans, who describes himself as a “future-focused person”, farms at Jindong with son Grant, milking 850 cows in a split-calving herd on 488 hectares.

A lifelong dairy farmer, Mr Evans is a passionate dairy industry advocate, having been Western Dairy chairman from 2005 to 2007 and from 2019 to 2021, WAFarmers Dairy Section president from 2007 to 2012 and Australian Dairy Farmers vice-chair from 2011-2012.

He is urging all levy payers to vote in the poll, encouraging them to take a long-term view when considering the future level of the levy.

“I will be voting in the 2022 dairy poll because I see the need to invest in the future of the dairy industry, particularly in terms of productivity, industry protection and promotion,” Mr Evans said.

“The important part is the investment in the future, and that is not a short-term thing – it’s for the medium and long-term.”

Mr Evans encourages levy payers to consider the levy not as a cost to their business, but as an investment in the industry.

“A lot of farmers see the levy as an expense rather than as an investment in the future, so if you are in the mood to cut expenses, then the levy is an expense you might like to cut,” he said.

“But it truly is an investment, and you need to think a bit more deeply about it than just seeing it as an expense.

“You need to ask yourself: ‘What does the levy do that I couldn’t do by myself?’.

“When you think about it, it’s really not very much money for research, development and extension, plus industry protection.”

In an upcoming information memorandum on the poll, which will be sent to all levy payers, Dairy Australia sets out the four key areas for investment going forward – labour, regional services, climate and policy.

The document details how Dairy Australia will deliver in all of these areas under each of the poll options (no increase, 15 per cent increase, 20pc increase, 25pc increase).

Mr Evans said it was clear these areas were of high relevance and concern to dairy farmers, and deserved detailed consideration by farmers.

“These priorities came out of the development of the Australian Dairy Plan, so those four areas are very much the result of grassroots farmer input,” he said.

“Regardless of the levy level, DA is committed to spending some money on those four things plus their existing commitments; so if there is no increase in levy, the money that is spent on this existing commitment is going to be somewhat crimped.

“In terms of the level of levy increase, the higher it is then the more money that will go into those four key areas.”

Mr Evans has a particular interest in seeing improvement in employment and career pathways in dairy.

“From an industry perspective, it would be nice if we could get the pressure off farmers,” he said.

“The constant time commitments are difficult for many – there are many challenges around resourcing labour, particularly managerial level labour onfarm.”

According to Mr Evans, it does not matter what stage someone was in their dairy farming journey, it was important to participate in the poll.

He said the outcome of the poll would have implications on the industry well into the future, which could have a major effect on farmers, their families and their businesses, and levy payers should reflect on this.

“If there is no increase, for example, if the status quo option prevails – people probably won’t notice much change next year necessarily, but they will notice in five years’ time and 10 years,” Mr Evans said.

He encouraged levy payers to read the information memorandum and other information, attend poll-related events and ask questions.

“Become informed, think about your future and vote for what you believe is best for the industry,” Mr Evans said.

United Dairyfarmers of Victoria members have instructed their organisation to lobby the Victorian Government to abandon its plan to cut agricultural staff.

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