Will Ryan + the Dairy Crisis
Over the past three years, Will Ryan has been a leader amongst the YAPs network. Eager to share his passion for farming and secure the future of Australian agriculture, Will has given tireless to the YAPs committee to create opportunities for other young farmers. During this time Will has also been involved with the VFF’s gas and mining task force and represented the organisation on the State government’s Young Farmer Ministerial Advisory Council.
Last month Will stepped down from these roles. This was a decision based on personal circumstances, amid a busy time when he and his family opted to sell their Gippsland dairy farm.
With dairy processors Murray Goulburn and Fonterra unexpectedly dropping their milk prices, a perfect media storm was created, with ABC Rural last week reporting on the “Young farmer [making the] heartbreaking decision to sell family farm as dairy prices drop”.
To those of us who know Will, this report seemed a harsh indication of the current conditions, resulting in “face of modern Australian farming” selling up. However, Will has been quick to correct the report; “Our decision to sell was based on a number factors which included future low forecasts in milk price but was made before the price step-down over the past three weeks”, Will said.
“The industry isn’t a sinking ship. Whilst selling was the best decision for our business, there still remains opportunity and a future for the industry. The most important thing is that businesses understand their financial positions. Volatility can be good as it makes us be more efficient into the future. It forces us to have higher business acumen.”
“Moving forward young people really need to lead from the front, particularly regarding financial literacy,” Will said. "From my experience, this is critical to understanding what options you have available for you and your business so you can move forward".
Amy Fay, YAPs Committee Chair, notes that market volatility, like what we have seen in the dairy industry, is particularly challenging for young farmers. “Farmers who are just starting out don’t often have the equity or experience to support them through the highs and lows. This means that even good businesses can struggle.”
“To help you through it it's really important to focus on what decisions you have to make and what planning needs doing in the short to medium term and surround yourself with a supportive team. Focusing on your business management is critical, and there are a lot of resources out there to help. Dairy Australia is delivering the Tactics for Tight Times program to help you with this. We’ve been really happy with the response from the VFF and UDV on this issue. Adam Jenkins [UDV president] has really stood up and advocated for farmers during this difficult time.” Amy said.
“It’s understandable to feel overwhelmed, but there are a lot of people here for you. The most important thing is to not go it alone. Seek out advice, and check in with your friends and family.”
Will also had some advice for young leaders speaking with the media. “You have to be cautious around what you have to say. Be wary about giving the correct information to media and if you don’t have the correct information, don’t be intimidated to say so.” Reflecting on his recent experience, “[The journalist] hasn’t distorted the information, I just wasn’t direct enough,” Will said.
The YAPs Committee wish to sincerely thank Will for his dedicated contribution over the past three years, particularly his leadership, hard work and enthusiasm. Will remains a vibrant example of a young leader within our industry and embodies what YAPs is all about: making positive industry change to secure the future of Australian agriculture. We wish him only the very best for this next, exciting chapter.
Information on the Dairy Australia Tactics for Tight Times program can be found here