Farmers urged to pay up for $2m dairy hub

Last updated 05:00 23/07/2014

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Southern dairy farmers are being asked to contribute $2 million towards the proposed Southern Dairy Hub.

Southern Dairy Development Trust chairman Matthew Richards is urging the almost 1000 dairy farmers in Southland and South and West Otago to dig deep into their pockets and support the development of the hub by donating $2000 per farm.

"We know it's a lot of money, but for a 30-year investment in our industry it's peanuts," Richards said.

The hub - expected to cost $26.5m - will become an internationally recognised, innovative and leading centre of excellence for dairy farming.

There will be about 850 to 950 cows on a 300 to 380 hectare self-contained property and ideally the farm will be in Central Southland.

"We want it within an hour's drive of most Southland dairy farms and close to the airport."

The lease on the Southland Demonstration Farm at Wallacetown was due to expire in 2016, Richards said.

"We need to secure our right to farm so that our kids and grandkids can be dairy farmers in the region and farm in a way that is sustainable.

"By 2025 we will be farming to limits and that scares me," Richards said.

About 100 dairy farmers had already shown their support for the project by donating $2000, but Richards urged more farmers to sign up.

"We need a clear mandate from farmers or our partners won't deliver the cash we need."

Federated Farmers Southland dairy section chairman Allan Baird said there was a real need for a demonstration farm to investigate issues such as environmental compliance.

"It's quite an exciting concept and it will be an asset for the southern dairy industry," he said.

Baird did not think the recent drop in the Global Dairy Trade price and the drop in Fonterra' forecast payout this season to $7 per kilogram of milk solids would affect farmers' ability to invest in the hub.

"Most dairy farmers should be able to afford to commit.

"I'm in favour of it," he said.

Hedgehope dairy farmer Simon Topham believed $2000 was a small price to pay for the development of a multimillion-dollar state-of-the-art demonstration farm that would be a leader in education, environmental advocacy and large-scale research.

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