THE FUTURE of the dairy industry lies in the hands of farmers, processes and service providers.
Industry leaders have called for a national consultation on how to create a more profitable, confident and united sector.
Australian Dairy Farmers president Terry Richardson said the consultations would help shape the future of the industry.
"There is no doubt that the dairy industry is at a crossroads with increased market volatility, the drought and still recovering from the pressure placed on it from the price step downs of 2016," he said.
"Now's the time for the industry to be proactive and contribute to a national road map, drive new thinking, structures, programs an initiatives that have direct relevance to everyone in dairy.
"The industry has a long and proud history of working together successfully through the tough times and it is critical that we renew our commitment to jointly tackle the difficulties and opportunities we face."
Earlier this year supermarket giants Coles, Woolworths and Aldi stopped the sale of $1 per litre milk, long thought to be the cause of financial hardship in the industry.
But, the increase in price doesn't necessarily mean more money in the farmer's pocket.
Processors need to pay a higher farmgate cost for those increases to be passed on to the farmer.
The national consultation will help create the Australian Dairy Plan, designed to identify key industry priorities and deliver transformative change for the sector over the next five years.
It's hoped the plan will make the industry more adaptable to the environment, provide dairy farmers and processors with more profit potential, and boost its sustainability.
A whole-of-industry commitment would be needed to tackle the issues, Dairy Australia chair Jeff Odgers said.
"This is a defining moment for the future of Australian dairy and I believe by working closer together we can put in place a blueprint that is built on a greater understanding of the issues and will help guide everyone in the industry to a more positive future," he said.
"We are a very diverse industry which can be a strength, but it has worked against us at times in terms of being cohesive and focusing on what really matters at a national level."
Challenges to the industry include rising costs of production, retail price stagnation, tough seasons and challenging global markets.
The consultation will take place over 20 locations across Australia during May and June, as well as the ability to contribute via online platforms.
The Australian Dairy Plan will be developed in 2019 and include industry-wide consultation, the final document will not set detailed targets but will measure performance against the agreed goals to demonstrate progress.
Similar plans have led to the successful expansion of the Irish dairy industry and the Australian cotton industry.
For more information visit dairyplan.com.au.