Farmers muster for conference

NEW HORIZONS: The QDO conference takes place in Gympie on Wednesday.
NEW HORIZONS: The QDO conference takes place in Gympie on Wednesday.

DAIRY farmers from across the Gympie region, Wide Bay, Burnett, Sunshine Coast and Queensland will attend the Queensland Dairyfarmers' Organisation conference in Gympie next Wednesday.

The conference follows the successful Toowoomba event held earlier this year and is themed New Horizons, with a strong focus to showcase a number of positive messages for the industry and emerging opportunities.

QDO president Brian Tessmann said the industry's challenges would be acknowledged, particularly given the difficult year the industry has faced, but he added that the conference was an opportunity to look to the future.

The event is being held in partnership with the industry's research and extension arm, Subtropical Dairy, and is being supported by the conference's major sponsor, Dairy Australia.

Local dairy industry spokesmen hoping to attend the conference had mixed thoughts on what they would like to see emerge from the event, which will take place at the Civic Centre.

Mary Valley farmers John Cochrane and Shane Paulger said they wanted the QDO to resolve to do some "real work" in helping Queensland dairy farmers get access to overseas markets, to reduce the almost complete control Woolworths and Coles have over milk price.

"The QDO has explained plenty of times that there is interest from Asia to buy milk out of Queensland," Mr Cochrane said.

"I would love to see them explore and deliver some real outcomes that will give farmers a better price."

Sexton dairy farmer Andrew Burnett wants to see a more positive approach to the future from the dairy industry peak body and wants as many local farmers to attend the conference as possible so they are across all the issues.

"I think the future for dairying has always looked okay," he said.

"But we don't seem to have much luck with the weather at the moment.

"The state is short of milk. There is an opportunity there for people who want to grab it."

Mr Tessmann said the Gympie conference would cap off the successful two-conference format for 2014.

Conference-goers will hear from major processors as well as some of the smaller processors, such as Dick Schroder of Cooloola Milk, who are continuing to carve out a niche with their milk brands.

It will also feature the full range of industry trends and topics from Dairy Australia and the QDO.

"The previous year has seen many of the industry challenges continuing, including flood leading into severe drought, and the ongoing supermarket milk price war depressing fresh milk returns.

"Unfortunately, this has seen the continued exodus of farmers from the industry."

Seventy per cent of Queensland's dairy farmers have left the industry in the past 14 years.

However, Mr Tessmann said there were some opportunities that the industry could look to.

"These include the growing interest in supplying milk to China, a small lift in farm-gate prices this year, and the much-needed prospect of further rises next year to help increase milk supply, particularly during autumn and winter."

Topics:  conference dairy farmers farming gympie

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