Viral video maker with a plan for dairy

Viral video maker with a plan for dairy

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Phil Ryan looks back at the 12 months since his viral video about the dairy crisis and drought aired and there's a mix of good and bad news.

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COMMUNICATOR: Phil Ryan has made several viral Facebook videos to bring the dairy industry's plight closer to policy makers and consumers but he's certainly far from finished.

COMMUNICATOR: Phil Ryan has made several viral Facebook videos to bring the dairy industry's plight closer to policy makers and consumers but he's certainly far from finished.

Plenty - but not enough - has changed for a drought-stricken farmer caught in the teeth of the dairy crisis since a viral Facebook video catapulted him onto the national stage in the lead-up to the federal election.

Phil Ryan's plight captured the attention of politicians, television, radio and print media in the lead-up to the federal election, building pressure for real reform of the industry.

ABC reports showing the broken-hearted Bega Valley dairy farmer send 35 cows to an abattoir brought a tidal wave of support from other farmers and consumers.

Mr Ryan expected to be milking 300 cows in a new dairy this year.

Instead, he is down to 155 milkers, is battling to carry on farming and has had to let a valued staff member go.

Even so, he has never looked for pity.

"I was frustrated that there was not enough accurate commentary on the effects of the drought and I felt it was important to make the case that this wasn't just about drought," Mr Ryan said.

"If we were to get a retail price increase that was going to disappear when the drought ended, that wasn't enough, that wasn't the right outcome to the industry.

"The industry's issues were partly to do with being underpaid for 10 years before this drought started.

"There weren't enough funds in farm management deposit accounts to help farmers ride through the drought on their own financial reserves.

'"We shouldn't need government assistance, we shouldn't need retail interventions from supermarkets that have actually been part of the problem."

He continues to make popular videos and the latest catalogues what has - or in many cases, has not - happened at the industry level.

Methodically listing the promises, plans and false-starts the industry has made in its path towards reform, Mr Ryan's frustration is palpable.

He turned to social media because he believed industry advocacy bodies had been ineffective but is also "in the tent".

A member of the NSW Farmers dairy committee, he has hosted local meetings and attended the Australian Dairy Plan (ADP) national workshop.

"I've been using social media because it's very easy and accessible but I'm also trying to work through official advocacy channels and industry bodies to present the views of other farmers," Mr Ryan said.

"We can't lose the focus that we've got from the public because of the drought without leveraging that to make long-term industry changes."

The ADP was considering the types of reforms needed by the dairy industry and needed time to "get it right".

"The Dairy Plan regional and national workshops have provided a very clear mandate for major change and clear guidelines for the outcomes that change needs to deliver," he said.

"If that guidance is followed, I know it will be a major step forward for the industry."

Still, Mr Ryan said change had to come faster than the process would allow.

"We can't wait for that to evolve and become effective," he said.

"We need to do everything we can to be effective in parallel with that activity."

Mr Ryan said it would be difficult for the ADP to deliver.

"I'm confident that it can, I'm not quite as confident that it will," he said.

"There are a lot of people with competing interests involved in the decision making process, there are different state interests, there are different funding requirements, and change by its nature is a difficult thing to achieve.

"We're looking at trying to change the current organisations and remodeling some of that research and development work and advocacy work.

"That probably requires changes to funding models and distribution, as soon as you start talking about moving money around and things get more complicated but it has to happen."

So, does Mr Ryan encourage other dairy farmers to follow his lead?

"I don't think we need 5000 dairy farmers putting videos on Facebook," he said.

"We need a small number that are well supported doing it, I would suggest, but continue to contact local media, traditional media, to maintain public awareness.

"Engage with those traditional advocacy bodies to influence the outcomes and be the part of the solution instead of just criticizing an outcome that doesn't meet our expectations if that's what gets delivered."

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