The dairy industry moved to set some solid foundations for a bright future at a gathering in Shepparton this week.
Farmers, service providers and industry stakeholders gathered for the launch of a Dairy Australia report, Lower Murray-Darling Basin: the Facts, the Future.
The report is a preliminary response to the inquiry into Dairying in the Lower Murray-Darling Basin, which has been undertaken throughout 2009.
"The broad inquiry process delivered all the information necessary for farmers, industry, other stakeholders and government to move forward positively and ensure a sustainable industry in the region," Dairy Australia managing director Mike Ginnivan said.
"Lower Murray-Darling Basin: the Facts, the Future sets a foundation for industry action and improved confidence, and opens the door for dialogue between industry and government."
He said the report would inform policy making and the on-going strategies of all those with an interest in the Lower Murray-Darling Basin.
Dr Ginnivan said despite climate variability, the lowest ever recorded inflows, drastically reduced irrigation water allocations, emergent policies on water availability and increased farm debt, a number of dairy farms in the region have generated competitive rates of return over the past decade.
"However, water availability remains the primary risk faced by our industry," he said.
"We'll remain the major water user in the region over the coming decade and naturally there will be continued variation around average water availability.
"Having the capacity to manage this variation is critical to the industry’s future in the region."
The report details that much of this capacity is best driven by improved certainty from water policy and advocates water market information that is accessible and transparent.
"Accurate and timely pricing information is important for efficient water market function, and allows dairy farmers to make better informed decisions about their water requirements and market participation," Dr Ginnivan said.
Jeff Odgers, Murray Dairy chair and local farmer, said that in coping with the challenges of the past decade, the region’s farming systems had necessarily become more complex and challenging.
"Farmers have had to up-skill in order to successfully manage price volatility and on-going limited water availability," Mr Odgers said.
"As a result, farming systems are now more complex, but they are also more flexible and make risk manageable.
"Likewise, communities, farmers, government and business must continue to build on the good environmental practices they have already begun putting in place, and we’ve got to measure and document these achievements to ensure we continue to be a significant contributor to our region’s economy.
"The inquiry process has given us the information necessary to tackle the on-going challenges in our region, and the structural change occurring both pre and post farm gate."
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