NZ Farmer - Dairy sector groups launch new strategic vision

The dairy sector has launched a new strategy which its leaders hope will address the many challenges it faces over the next decade.

Called 'Dairy Tomorrow', the joint sector-led initiative had six commitments and 22 goals centred around environmental protection, resilience, milk quality, animal welfare, people and communities.

The goals include leading efforts to improve fresh water quality and reducing carbon emissions and by 2020, develop a National Science Challenge for the industry and promote the value opportunities for New Zealand milk.

The strategy also aimed to create more initiatives to attract more people into dairy industry careers and have all farms following best employment practices by 2025.

In that same year, it has the goal of being a "highly trusted business sector" in New Zealand.

The blueprint was created by DairyNZ, Federated Farmers, the Dairy Companies Association of New Zealand (DCANZ), and the Dairy Women's Network.

DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle said the strategy would lead to a longer term conversation about New Zealand's future farm and food systems.

"We are proud of our achievements over the last decade. It's set us up to address the challenges and opportunities we now face as a result of the growth we've experienced over recent years."

Some goals had firm time frames while others were more aspirational.

"We want to begin straight away collaborating on strategies and actions toward achieving swimmable waterways and finding new opportunities to reduce or offset our greenhouse gas emissions. These actions will be ongoing priorities.

"At the same time we've put some deadlines in place for implementing new initiatives, including to develop cutting edge science and technology solutions and to implement a new framework for world leading on-farm animal care," Mackle said.

Federated Farmers dairy chairman Chris Lewis said the strategy painted a picture of the industry's future direction. Achieving some of the goals would be relatively simple while the progress on others would be more challenging, because it could not just be a box ticking exercise.

"We wanted to set some high level goals to push us to motivate us to achieve it.

"There's a lot of work ahead of us to achieve all of this and it's ain't going to be a walk in the park."

While the strategy would initiate debate among farmers, there was an agreement that they must keep moving forward to remain competitive worldwide, maintain a strong relationship with all New Zealanders and deliver environmental and economic targets.

Industry critics who claimed the strategy did not make decisions on issues such as cow numbers should realise that it addressed good management practices and system changes where necessary, he said.

For the industry, that meant inspecting  every farm and every catchment across the country and determining what the specific issues were, he said.

"In some places there could be a realignment of stock numbers, in others it might be fine, but you can't make broad sweeping statements saying there are too many cows."

The strategy aimed to make dairy food the number one choice for consumers worldwide. Lewis said the industry needed to tell its story better to achieve that goal.

"We need our house in order. They won't buy off us if we don't have the fundamentals right in our business."

Fonterra chairman John Wilson said the need for sustainable farming was balanced with recognising dairying's economic contribution to New Zealand.

"This strategy will set the direction for dairy for the next decade."