Designed with industry groups, the fund is intended to help dairy farmers innovate and increase on-farm efficiency, sustainability and resilience to manage seasonal variations through investments in technology and infrastructure.
All Australian dairy farmers who contribute milk to Woolworths’ dairy supply chain – directly or through processors – can apply to access up to A$100,000 (US$73,566) each in grants.
The fund supports the Australian Dairy Plan’s emphasis on innovation as a key driver to reduce the cost of production and increase on-farm profitability.
Dairy Australia research shows around 80% of dairy farmers intend to make investments in their business in the next two years, and Woolworths said its funding will help make some of the plans reality.
Woolworths director of buying, Paul Harker, said, “Dairy farmers have faced tough conditions in recent years through droughts and bushfire. The Dairy Innovation Fund will help farmers invest for the future, while also increasing resilience to withstand these types of challenges.
“This fund will assist in turning long-planned farm improvements into a reality, so we’re inviting dairy farmers to tell us how they would use up to $100,000 to improve their operations. We look forward to supporting projects which will make a meaningful difference to Australian dairies and contribute to the long-term prosperity of the sector.”
The grants add to Woolworths’ existing support for Australian dairy farmers through its 10 cent per liter drought levy on all two- and three-liter fresh own-brand milk varieties, which has to date delivered more than A$60m (US$44.1m) to 450 dairy farmers since 2018. In response to rising farmgate prices negotiated between dairy farmers and milk processors, Woolworths said it has also accepted tens of millions in wholesale cost increases from its dairy suppliers in recent years.
The fund has been designed in consultation with industry groups Australian Dairy Farmers, Dairy Australia, National Farmers’ Federation, Premium Milk Ltd and the NSW Farmers’ Association Dairy Committee. The consultation was to ensure the fund will provide effective support for investments in infrastructure such as water and fodder, or agriculture technology and sustainability initiatives.
Chairman of the NSW Dairy Committee, Colin Thompson, said, “This is a welcome initiative by Woolworths and acknowledges the need for investment in on-farm efficiencies to boost the profitability and long-term sustainability of dairy farms, including those in NSW recovering from the impacts drought and bushfires, on top of low farm gate returns in recent years.”
Chairman of Queensland-based Premium Milk Ltd, Peter Garratt, added, “We're excited by the opportunity to make farmers’ ambitions a reality through the grants offered by the Woolworths Dairy Innovation Fund.
“We believe there are tremendous opportunities to see farms continuing to innovate, investing in technology and capital infrastructure that will drive efficiencies and profitability of our industry into the future.”
The fund will support around 60 businesses over the next three years, with yearly grant application rounds open to all dairy farmers in the Woolworths supply chain, including those supplying vendor brands.
The application period ends on February 16, 2021.