2020 has certainly thrown a lot of punches, but fortunately, our Queensland dairy industry has managed to hold steady.
This does not by any stretch mean that we have not had our share of challenges, many of which are carry-overs from the previous year, including the ongoing drought, delays to the long-awaited launch of the Fair Go Dairy logo scheme and the ongoing uncertainty around the future of Australia's dairying industry.
As of December 1, 2020, 67.4 per cent of the land area of Queensland is either fully or partially drought declared.
That percentage has not changed in 12 months. But drought assistance, both financial and mental, has taken a backseat to all the other issues (and issues that require government assistance and funding) that we have faced this year.
In 2020, our dairy farm numbers slowly dropped and we passed the inauspicious figure of fewer than 300 farms left in Queensland. The continually high cost of production caused by high feed, water and cooling costs will only drive more farms to close unless other avenues are found to improve profitability for the industry here in the northern dairying region.
The Fair Go Dairy logo will help consumers identify brands that are paying farmers a Sustainable and Fair Farmgate Price (SFFP) and it is hoped, will help drive an increase in the farmgate price. The logo's launch was delayed from March this year and we were forced to undergo the lengthy and costly exercise of applying for authorisation under the ACCC.
Perhaps to the dismay of the logo's detractors, we have been assured that the logo scheme is on track for an early year release.
COVID-19 has marked 2020 as a year of bad omens, so it will come as no surprise that COVID has been the cause (and excuse) used most often for disruptions. As a non-export market, we have been relatively fortunate not to have our domestic fresh milk markets disrupted significantly, though no market has been completely immune.
With regards to our industry, COVID disruptions have extended the timelines initially given for the finalisation of the Dairy Plan, most notably the organisational restructuring of the industry. We continue to believe in and push for a single well-resourced, farmer-controlled national dairy body that each regional/state body can link into must form the basis for the new national framework.
QDO continued to deliver core programs and grants to our farmers despite disruptions to on-farm visits and the cancellation of key workshops and our annual conference.
The Farm Planning pilot involved 100 members and delivered 62 one-on-one farm consultations, nine introductory workshops, 42 farm plans, five future focus workshops, 42 farm plan follow-ups, 10 mentoring sessions, one webinar and one participant survey.
By the end of the year, 10 farms will have completed their Rural Water Usage Efficiency (RWUE) Scheme Projects and almost one-third of Energy Savers participants have received their $20,000 funding to implement their energy-saving projects.
I would again like to thank the tireless work done by our QDO staff this year. Eric, Kerrie, Sarah, Torie and Jade have continued to deliver for our members even when they were not sure where they were working from!
Finally, but most importantly a big thanks to members for their ongoing support and continued passion for our dairy industry.
I hope you have a safe Christmas and New Year period. Bring on 2021!