Reward farmers for ‘green milk’, urge dairy industry leaders

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 27th June 2008

International and local dairy experts have warned that dairy farmers must be rewarded for developing and implementing sustainability initiatives if the industry is to overcome the challenges of climate change.The advice comes from dairy industry leaders who attended a forum hosted by the NSW Dairy Industry Conference and Milk Marketing NSW earlier this month in Sydney, where a commitment was made to the development of a ‘Climate Change Road Map’, modeled on UK and USA examples.

Mr George Davey, Chairman of Milk Marketing, said the Road Map would bring together all segments of the dairy industry to tackle the possible impacts of climate change including higher prices for dairy products, the loss of farms and intense competition for feed and water supplies.

“Environmental initiatives deliver clear financial benefits for those segments of the industry closest to the consumer, such as processors and retailers, where sustainability can deliver a competitive advantage as consumers seek out ‘green’ products,” Mr Davey said. “However, there is currently a limited economic incentive for farmers to invest in environmental innovations. We need a cost sharing system that rewards farmers for developing and implementing sustainability initiatives on the farm.”

“The Road Map will involve an audit of the entire chain, from farmers and processors through to transport and retail, looking for potential points of improvement and providing a better understanding of the environmental footprint of the dairy industry.”

The climate change forum, held in Sydney on June 2, was attended by the President of the International Dairy Federation and Director General of Dairy UK, Jim Begg; Executive Director of the Global Dairy Platform, Kevin Bellamy; and the Chairman of the NSW Farmers Association Dairy Committee, Adrian Drury.

A recent report by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ABARE) projected that Australia would be one of the most adversely affected regions from future changes in climate in terms of reductions in agricultural production and exports.

The ABARE report shows that income for dairy farmers fell substantially in 2006-07 because of drought, consequent lower milk production and higher fodder costs, and predicts that the $2.5 billion dairy export market could decline by almost a third by 2050.