Michael Johnsen strives for growth in industry during 2019 NSW Dairy Forum

FRIENDLY FORUM: Michael Johnsen MP is pleased with the cohesiveness displayed at the recent NSW Dairy Forum in Sydney.
FRIENDLY FORUM: Michael Johnsen MP is pleased with the cohesiveness displayed at the recent NSW Dairy Forum in Sydney.

THE dairy industry is one of the most crucial pillars of the Upper Hunter economy, and naturally a forum on the topic is of extreme interest to the local region.

Fortunately local MP Michael Johnsen is also now the parliamentary secretary for Agriculture and Resources and has been advised by Minister for Agriculture, Adam Marshall, to focus on issues relating to the dairy industry.

This falls in to the latter category of Mr Johnsen's mantra, which is that the Upper Hunter is home to world class mines, wines, equines and bovines.

Speaking to the Hunter Valley News at Muswellbrook's Double Picc coffee shop, he discussed what was conversed and accomplished at the forum, which was held on Thursday, August 8.

"It was about coming together to bring farmers and industry participants, whether they be processors, retailers, distributors - it doesn't where you are on the supply chain - and saying 'okay here are the challenges we've got, now what are the opportunities'," he said.

"It's all about making sure they get together and not focus on what the negatives may be, because there's always going to be negatives even in a good time, but focus on what opportunities there may be and what strategic plans should we putting in place as an industry to ensure the success and profitability of everyone."

There were many different business and organisation leaders in attendance and making speeches at the Sydney based event, which lasted for more than six hours.

NSW Farmers Dairy chair Colin Thompson, Dairy Connect president Graham Forbes, University of Sydney's Yani Garcia, Shooters, Farmers and Fishers' Robert Borsak, Mr Marshall and NSW Nationals leader and deputy premier John Barilaro were just some of the heavy hitters who participated.

Mr Johnsen spoke himself and took part in a panel discussion, where he said they examined the best way to make progress moving forward.

"We were talking about bipartisanship and making sure that people understood this is not a political matter, this is a structural matter and we need to work together to make sure we take the politics out of it," he stated.

"We need to take away the barriers to success and give the industry the confidence and the certainty to know that at a political level we want to make things better for them.

"One of the bits of feedback that I heard on the day, at the end of the day and consistently since is that long term participants of the industry have not seen so much unity before, which I think is a good thing because it sets the platform for people working together."

The Upper Hunter MP said he was loving his new role as parliamentary secretary and was ecstatic to be able to play a more active part in proceedings.

He revealed he was learning more about the range of issues industry participants face, and trying to work out how best to balance all of the different aspects involved in dairy production.

Mr Johnsen feels his efforts are being vindicated by the recent actions of supermarket giants Woolworths, Coles and Aldi who have been raising the price of milk after receiving pressure from the industry and the public.