The current state of the dairy industry is causing angst among farmers.
Many are raising concerns over their lack of bargaining power, milk prices under the cost of production, lack of information about the supply chain and the fact that dairyfarmers are expected to wear risks long after milk has left the farm.
However, in the midst of this, Dairy NSW, Subtropical Dairy, Dairy Australia and the NSW Department of Primary Industries have provided a breath of fresh air with their collaborative project, Grow the NSW Dairy Industry: Project 20:20 Pathways to Change.
The project aims to build confidence, encourage diversity and drive growth within the NSW dairy industry.
Together with milk processors and other commercial providers, Project 20:20 will provide a range of support services which aid farmers to develop customised farm business management plans to understand their business performance over time.
Dairyfarmer Tim and Julie Bale, of Stewarts River, north of Taree, is a leading example of the Project 20:20 initiative.
Nominated as a feature farm for the project, the Bales' farming practices demonstrate a sound knowledge of the cost of production and a willingness to sustain, grow and improve business and farm efficiencies.
The Bales are the driving force behind Woolworths brand Farmer's Own.
When Mr Bale felt that his milk was worth more than what processors were offering he formed a collective bargaining group and brokered a deal to supply directly to Woolworths, securing the profitability of their farm.
To help manage their farm staff, they utilise the People in Dairy website resources and implemented the Feeding Pastures for Profit grazing principles.
Mr Bale's innovative practices seem to have shone at the perfect time as more than 200 frustrated farmers and producers provided practical examples of how supply and demand were simply not delivering a fair farmgate milk price at a fair trading investigation meeting last week.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's first public forums collecting information for its inquiry into dairy trading practices attracted far larger turnouts than expected, with lack of information about where profits flow through the supply chain proving to be at the core of many issues raised.
Project Manager and Regional Manager of Dairy NSW Roxanne Cooley, said: "While building confidence is complex, ultimately confidence will be built by farmers feeling in control of their businesses."
The industry will be invited to open days at each farm over the next six months and the farms will participate in a panel discussion at the NSW Dairy Industry Forum on July 25 at the Rydges in Port Macquarie, alongside the 2017 Dairy Research Foundation Symposium.