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About 100 out of nearly 1000 dairy farmers in Otago and Southland have shown their support to date.''
It is about the future of dairying in the southern region and they need to be with us,'' says dairy farmer Matthew Richards, of Edendale.
He is the chairman of the Southern Dairy Development Trust (SDDT), which was established in 2007 to own and operate the Southland Demonstration Farm (SDF) at Wallacetown.
However, the owners of the property wish to take over the farm once its lease runs out in 2016.
With that in mind, the trust is seeking support from Southland's and Otago's nearly 1000 dairy farmers to establish a new Southern Dairy Hub (SDH).
Mr Richards said the SDH would be a commercial farm, showcasing best-practice dairy farming methods and would be used for training, education and research, which would benefit both dairy farmers and the southern economy.
The trust intends to buy a 300ha to 380ha property, which would milk about 800 cows in four herds.
The project is expected to cost about $26.5 million, with all but $4.5 million coming from trust partners.
The balance is to be raised by the trust, with about $2.5 million coming from the SDF when the lease is finished, and the balance, $2 million, is hoped to come from the region's dairy farmers, which will be a confirmation that they support the proposal.
The trust and the SDF board have been holding roadshows and making presentations to encourage dairy farmers to support the project.
Mr Richards said DairyNZ had already agreed in principle to give levy funds to the hub, but its support was conditional on a show of support from the region's dairy farmers.
He said the trust hoped to announce the inclusion of another partner shortly, once negotiations were complete.
He encouraged dairy farmers to fill out a donation form (at: www.demofarm.co.nz) on the website, with a minimum donation of $2000 per dairy farm and associated businesses.
Donations are tax-deductable and no money is required at present, only the commitment of support.
''About 100 farmers have signed the form so far,'' Mr Richards said.
''They stand behind the trust.''
He said in addition to education and training, the hub would also be used for research.
''To be here for the next 30 years, we need science behind us.
''We need to show the southern community that dairy farmers do care about science.
''At the moment, farmers are under pressures with new environmental policies coming.
''We need to get all our farmers over the line.''
Mr Richards said if the hub went ahead, the farm would need to be ready by June 1, 2016.
''The hub will be of benefit to everyone.
''We are doing it for the betterment of southern dairy farmers, and it is a long-term investment.
''If they don't fill out the form and send it back we run the risk of not having anything [at the end],'' he said.
- by Yvonne O'Hara