Dairyman questions survey bias

22 Apr, 2004 07:00 PM
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WITCHCLIFFE dairy farmer Brian Yates has questioned the validity of a national dairy survey designed to aid the industry's recovery.

WA is the only state where every producer will receive an extended phone survey, as well as a written form, as part of the Dairy Australia project, which is supported by Western Dairy and WAFarmers.

Mr Yates, a National Foods and Challenge supplier, said he supported information gathering, but the survey had avoided critical questions and placed an emphasis on efficiency that had dogged dairy farmers since deregulation.

"It's all about what you would do in favourable season," he said. "I could have the best season in the world, but if I'm not getting a good price, I can't survive."

He said questions on topics such as irrigation, had an eastern states bias.

In WA, the survey could have tackled issues like the testing 365-day milking requirements that processors Peters and Brownes and National Foods enforced on their suppliers.

In response to a survey question, he said he did not how long he would remain in dairying.

"I'd like to be there. I've got a 14-year-old son who could run the farm tomorrow,² he said.

³But I can't see much point in bashing our heads just to give a bigger profit to National Foods shareholders."

He was not against increased efficiency, only the emphasis it received over political and social solutions.

"Any farmer who's not trying to grow the best grass or put the cheapest inputs in, shouldn't be in the industry in the first place," he said.

Western Dairy chair Lorelle Fry said the survey was intended as a stocktake of the industry for the benefit of farmers, processors, retailers, banks and researchers.

"It's understandable that people may have heard enough about efficiency," she said.

"But some of these things could help farmers get an extra 2c/L, which would be very useful."

She expected harder evidence to come out of questions about where the respondents saw themselves heading.

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