Thursday, 07 May 2020 10:05

Levy an investment in dairy’s future

Written by  Jim van der Poel, chairman of DairyNZ
Jim van der Poel. Jim van der Poel.

Chairman of DairyNZ, Jim van der Poel on the body's upcoming levy vote.

This month we are asking all levy-paying dairy farmer to cast their vote on the milksolids levy which funds industry good work and an independent body (DairyNZ) that represents all dairy farmers.

It’s a tricky time to ask farmers to vote on the levy and we understand the demands on-farm right now. COVID-19 has challenged us as essential workers, which has flowed into feed shortages, Moving Day concerns and setting up for the new dairy season, among other things.

Farmers have had to make rapid changes to their farm businesses during the lockdown and will continue to respond to events as they unfold. Farmers, as is their way, have got on with the job to be done while making sure they respect the rules in place for the lockdown. 

With dairy being such a core sector for our economy, we all have an interest in it continuing to underpin our national wellbeing, now more than ever. Historically, New Zealand’s economy has been driven by agriculture – dairy is our biggest ag sector with dairy exports increasing from $13.3b in 2016 to $18.1b in 2019. 

Dairy’s large contribution to New Zealanders’ economic wellbeing comes with a greater focus on our sector and its sustainability. Challenges on the horizon include staff shortages, regulatory changes and the commitment to nurture the environment.

Research, advocacy and expertise never more vital 

How we respond and find solutions to these issues is vital. We as dairy farmers have long been at the forefront of an ever-evolving industry and pioneering global research to continue improving how we farm and become more efficient. 

There are always challenges ahead of us but dairy has a strong future.

DairyNZ invests significant levy dollars into research and development for better farm systems, environmental management, animal care and workplaces. 

That research has driven changes to how we look at farming – using plantain to absorb excess nutrients from soils, is a good example. Now it has the potential to be a leading option for pasture-based farming systems.

Likewise, investment into the national dairy herd has driven changes to our national dairy herd. $43m of your levy money went into animal projects such as NZAEL, the core database and genetics between 2015-2019. This investment has delivered an estimated $445m of value for New Zealand’s dairy sector (according to independent analysis).

Our policy and advocacy teams successfully engaged with Government to limit restraints and proposed costs for farmers with significant wins, such as keeping agriculture out of the Emissions Trading Scheme and He Waka Eke Noa. This is estimated to save farmers over $5 billion during the next 30 years. 

Every levy paying farmer invests 3.6c/kgMS, which contributes to research, development, advocacy and industry good activities.

For every $1 dairy farmers invest in DairyNZ the Government and other organisations co-invest a further $1.80. 

The milksolids levy has been part of New Zealand dairy farming for 17 years. For me, being part of DairyNZ is rewarding – working for the future of dairy and helping build great communities across New Zealand.

I encourage levy paying farmers to make your vote now. This is your levy, your vote and your future. 

'Yes' or 'no' vote

All levy-paying dairy farmers should have their vote packs now. 

It’s a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ vote. Don’t forget to remind your neighbours too – we want as many dairy farmers to vote as possible, by May 30. 

Visit dairynz.co.nz/vote for more information.

• Jim van der Poel is chairman of DairyNZ

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