The dairy sector can no longer ignore the growing trend of compliance and regulations and must evolve to meet the challenges.
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SIDE 2021 organising committee chair Andrew Slater.

That was the message from South Island Dairy Event chairman Andrew Slater at the two-day conference in Ashburton last week.

Slater says the conference theme, Evolve, was born from the current situation facing the dairy sector.

“We felt we had hit the nail on the head pretty well and the last two years has cemented that even further,” he says.

“The agricultural industry is constantly facing multi-faceted challenge and change.

“We have regulators throwing curve balls at us, those entrusted to police these new regulations unsure of what they are policing or how to police them, and ever increasing compliance coming left, right and centre from regulators, suppliers and customers along with a bad case of the squeaky wheel getting heard far too much.

“The Covid pandemic, while we are extremely fortunate down in our part of the world, has thrown huge challenges our way, getting product to its intended markets, market dynamic changing, the availability and cost of inputs, transport logistics challenges and a massive effect on the labour market.

“On top of this, mother nature has joined the party, not wanting to miss out, and replenished soil moisture levels in a rather unfriendly way.”

Slater says farmers have survived these challenges to date relying on resilience, foresight and doing what they do best, getting on with it.

“With the continued environmental challenges, changes in the finance sector, and increasing demands from the end users of our products to name a few, our farming systems need to evolve to not only survive but to prosper and grow sustainably and continue to be the backbone of the economy.”

Last year’s SIDE was cancelled due to Covid.

Slater says when the event committee first sat down nearly two years ago and started making plans for the 2020 conference, they had no idea what lay ahead.

The decision to postpone was incredibly disappointing, however, with the entire event committee agreed to stay on to put this year’s event together.

About 400 farmers attended the event.

In his speech, DairyNZ chairman Jim van der Poel touched on the recent devastating Ashburton floods.

He noted that some farmers are still struggling with the aftermath, “which continues long after flood waters have passed and media have left town”.

“I’m not sure anyone was expecting three months of rain in three days: that’s a lot of water for anyone to deal with,” he says.

The floods left a big mess for farmers. Van der Poel says dairy farmers are getting on with cleaning homes and repairing fences.

“It’s not easy but rural communities are pretty good and help each other in difficult times. I’m sure this community is doing exactly this.”

Nominations are open for Fonterra’s board election but a repeat of the drama that rocked the vote three years ago can be ruled out.

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