POSITIVE relationships with WAFarmers' dairy council and milk processors was one reason why Busselton, WA, farmer Robin Lammie said he was prepared to become Western Dairy's new chairman last week.
Mr Lammie, vice chairman since 2019, stepped up to chairman at Western Dairy's annual general meeting after its Spring Forum in Bunbury, WA, replacing Jindong farmer Peter Evans who stood down after a second stint as chairman.
Since earlier this year Mr Lammie and Mr Evans have been involved with WAFarmers dairy council representatives, president Ian Noakes and past president Michael Partridge, on a working group helping prepare a plan for the future of the WA dairy industry.
Processor representatives from Bega, Brownes Dairy and Harvey Fresh-owner Lactalis, as well as Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development officers and Dairy Australia representatives have also been involved in preparing the plan which is likely to be released for stakeholder comment early in the new year.
"I enjoy keeping up with what is going on and interacting with other engaged people in the industry," said Mr Lammie, who runs a 650-cow operation with wife Betty, son Wes and daughter-in-law Sarah, after his election as chairman.
"Western Dairy has a very positive relationship with WAFarmers dairy council which is one of the reasons I'm prepared to step up.
"The WA working group that we've got going and we heard about today (at the Spring Forum) also leads into much stronger dialogue, now we are all in the same room - we're only a small industry in WA."
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While major supermarket milk retailers have not been directly involved in the working group, Mr Lammie said he believed WA's dairy plan "could be a good conduit between us (dairy farmers) and the retailers and hopefully bring them a bit closer".
"It (dairy plan) has been a slow mover, but I think we should have a pretty strong announcement to make by Christmas," he said.
Mr Lammie was co-opted onto the Western Dairy board in 2018 to fill a vacancy and elected for a full three-year term later that year.
His family migrated to WA from Scotland in 1968 and settled on a half-cleared farm at Northcliffe milking 70 cows.
Mr Lammie worked with his parents, Christine and Robert, on the farm until the family sold up in 1994 and he changed direction and bought Bunbury Freight Company, which he ran for 18 years.
In 2013 the family returned to dairying when son Wes decided he wanted to have a crack at it.
Andrew Jenkins, who with wife Claire runs a 700-cow dairy farm at Denmark, was elected Western Dairy's vice chairman.
At the annual meeting Mr Jenkins and Nick Brasher, director and owner of WA's only herd improvement data processing business FarmWest, were each re-elected to the Western Dairy board for their second three-year terms.
In his final chairman's report, Mr Evans said 2020-21 had been "another period of change" for the WA dairy industry which had been dominated by COVID-19.
"The greatest impact on farm appears to be the acute shortage of available staff to the detriment of farmers, existing farm staff and farm productivity," he said.
Mr Evans was elected Western Dairy chairman for a second time in 2019.
He had previously served as chairman in 2005-2007.
Mr Evans was WAFarmers' dairy council president in 2011 when Coles and Woolworths introduced $1-a-litre milk and has also been Australian Dairy Farmers vice-chairman.
As Western Dairy's representative on the Levy Poll Advisory Committee (LPAC) which reviewed and has recommended a 20 per cent increase in the dairy services levy at next year's dairy poll, Mr Evans earlier joined former Western Dairy chairperson Vicki Fitzpatrick, Dairy Australia chairman James Mann by video link and former Western Dairy executive officer Esther Jones in a dairy levy panel discussion at the Spring Forum.
Ms Fitzpatrick related her and husband Luke's experiences and the levy-funded support the dairy industry provided after the 2015 Yarloop bushfires impacted their Waroona dairy farm.
She said she was happy to support the recommended 20pc increase in levy next year.
Mr Evans said the result for the local industry would be "dreadful if the vote is for no change" at the levy poll.
Dairy farmers next year will choose from options of no change to the current levy of 4.7 cents per kilogram of milk solids plus 0.36c per litre of milk volume produced, a 15pc increase, the LPAC-recommended 20pc increase or a 25pc increase to the service levy.
Increasing focus on industry segment greenhouse gas emissions to meet climate change targets will place increasing demands on dairy industry funding for research and response, Spring Forum guests were told.
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