After a series of challenging seasons, NSW’s world-class dairy industry has begun to navigate its way out of the impacts of drought and bushfires, with new figures from the NSW Nationals in the state government revealing an up-to three-fold increase in profitability for farmers.
To further secure the promising upswing, Nationals Emergency Management Minister David Littleproud and NSW Nationals Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall this week announced a $6 million grant from the state and federal government’s Stage One Bushfire Local Economic Recovery Fund – Sector Development Grants.
The funding will contribute to a project total of $16 million, with significant co-contributions from Dairy Australia, the University of Sydney, the private sector, NSW dairy industry organisations and the broader national dairy industry.
Mr Littleproud said the funding and collaboration will deliver a multi-year program to accelerate recovery and build business resilience and growth in the dairy industry, following the significant impacts of the 2019/20 bushfires.
“Our dairy industry has faced multiple challenges recently and we welcome this announcement of return to profitability as they emerge from this difficult period,” Mr Littleproud said.
“The NSW Nationals in the state and federal governments have both kicked the tin to make this possible.
“Agriculture is the cornerstone of economic recovery and the dairy industry is embracing innovations to keep the sector growing.”
Mr Marshall said it was proof of The Nationals’ commitment to a safer, stronger regional NSW.
“Our farmers are a tough bunch who have shown an impressive amount of resilience over the last few years, but they’re not in this alone – The Nationals in Government continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with them to help prepare for the future,” Mr Marshall said.
“Industry asked for more investment in research and development, and our initial response is this $6 million investment toward a $16 million collaborative research, development and extension program that will create new jobs, boost investment and diversification, increase productivity, while also making farming businesses more resilient.”
The NSW Department of Primary Industries’ Dairy Farm Monitor Project monitors 35 farms across the state covering a range of farm sizes and farm systems. Figures for 2019/20 revealed that average farm business profit for these farms increased from $0.38/kgMS (Milk Solids) to $1.05/kgMS.
NSW Nationals Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture Michael Johnsen said the NSW Nationals in the state government had partnered with the University of Sydney’s Dairy Research Foundation (DRF) to deliver the collaborative program.
“The combined effect of bushfires, drought and the COVID-19 pandemic reduced milk output and disrupted the supply chain which has impacted everyone, from farmers to processors, right down to consumers,” Mr Johnsen said.
“But pleasingly, we are now seeing industry turn around and return to the productivity that made it a world-leader in the dairy space. NSW DPI data has shown profitability for 2019/20 was at the third-highest level in the nine years in which farms have been monitored across.
“The dairy industry is worth more than $600 million to the state’s economy each year, so it’s vital we fast-track recovery, especially from last summer’s bushfires.”
University of Sydney’s DRF Director Professor Sergio Garcia is the project’s lead, and said the collaborative program would accelerate the recovery of the drought and fire-affected NSW dairy industry, and improve farm business resilience and preparedness.
“We termed the program ‘4Hs’ – healthy milk, cows, systems, and people,” Prof. Garcia said.
“The program looks to unlock the potential of milk, cow and water to address farm underperformance, de-risk the dairy industry, and develop new markets. We hope to accelerate the sector’s recovery and contribute to its future successes and profitability.”
Professor Garcia worked with NSW Fresh Milk and Dairy Advocate Mr Ian Zandstra, to secure contributions from a broad range of partners.
“This is a truly collaborative program, having attracted cash and in-kind investment totalling $16 million from the government, industry, education and private sectors,” Mr Zandstra said.
Dairy Australia Managing Director Dr David Nation said the five-year initiative will support priority areas identified by the NSW dairy industry.
“The program is very well supported by a range of NSW organisations and dairy businesses, and Dairy Australia welcomes the opportunity to participate,” Dr Nation said.