Voting in the 2022 Dairy Service Levy Poll has opened.
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NO OPTION: John Versteden, Longwarry, saysdeciding on the levy amount is always a challenge, but there was no option to leave it where it is.

A Dairy Australia spokeswoman said the poll was an opportunity for dairy farmers to determine the level of investment in the industry’s future.

Four voting options, determined by the Levy Poll Advisory Committee, include a recommended 20 per cent increase in the dairy service levy.

The spokeswoman said additional investment would deliver tangible benefits to dairy farmers in important areas for the industry – tackling labour shortages, enhancing the regional service offering to farmers, addressing high priority issues around climate and bolstering policy support.

It’s the first time levy payers have had the chance to vote on the levy in more than a decade.

The levy is invested by Dairy Australia for research and innovation in a range of areas.

In total about $55 million-$60 million is invested each year, including 50 per cent from levy funds, 35pc from government and 14pc from external contributions/grants.

Kelvin Matthews, Cohuna, Vic. said he believed some of the areas DA intended spending money in were “an absolute waste.

“I just think they need to do what they are doing at the moment and cut down on the waste,” he said.

Although milk prices might be strong “while the going is good, we have to make a bit of money too”.

“Costs are up across the board, fertiliser, fuel, everything is hard to get, and you have to pay more for wages,” he saiod.

“There is a lot more you are paying for, which eats into that higher milk price.”

He said DA should also ask farmers in the north about what they wanted.

“Up here in the north, it’s not irrigation anymore, there are a lot of feed sheds going up,” he said.

“I’d like to see a lot more work done around that, how to make that work – we are evolving and times are changing. We are not pasture-based in the north, anymore.”

John Versteden, Longwarry, Vic, said deciding on the levy amount was always a challenge, but there was no option to leave it where it was.

“I know the last time the levy was considered the levy poll committee said it would not look at a rise at that time,” Mr Versteden said.

“Milk prices were subdued and it wasn’t a good time to be asking for farmers to contribute more to industry levies.

“I think the last time the levy was altered was 2010 – not to have any incremental rises in that time is probably not a great recipe for the future.”

He said while the 20pc figure looked daunting, consumer price index (CPI) increases hadn’t been built in when the levy was last looked at, “so it probably isn’t even enough.”

Complacency was the biggest issue.

“People are saying they are going alright, so they don’t need to worry about it,” he said

“But it’s about the future.”

He said carbon trading and labour issues would need to be addressed.

“When the Dairy Plan meetings went around, certainly some priorities were unveiled as a part of that,” Mr Versteden said.

“There are some key strategic areas, which need focus.”

Tyrendarra, Vic, dairy farmer Bruce Knowles said levy payers should have their say, after hearing what DA was outlining at planned meetings throughout Victoria.

“The options are to remain the same, or vote for one of a series of proposed levy increases,” Mr Knowles said.

“It’s up to farmers to become informed about the options and have a vote – United Dairyfarmers of Victoria is encouraging every levy payer to participate and vote on this.”

He said there was concern that while the price was good, there was an exodus of dairy farmers from the industry.

“They are going to meat, or wool, which is a major concern – there is actually a shortage of milk,” he said.

Voting will close on March 31.

Fonterra says the outlook for dairy is positive, and the co-operative has released an upbeat forecast for its full-year profit.

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