A week into the Covid-19 lockdown, DairyNZ says dairy farmers are settling into life in lockdown but the sector's focus remains on ensuring support for farms.
Government support for farming as an essential service has been positive to date and is helping ensure all farms can be kept ticking, DairyNZ chief executive Dr Tim Mackle said.
"DairyNZ is working closely with dairy farmers and agri-partners to ensure all farming families, staff and support services are safe, and that farmers have access to the equipment, services and people they need.
"We all share concerns about the health and economic effects Covid-19 will have on our families, communities and New Zealand, and farmers are working hard to minimise risks to keep their businesses running smoothly," Dr Mackle said.
"Farmers by nature are resourceful and dedicated, and are fortunate right now to be making a positive difference at a time of great need, by contributing to our communities and the economy.
"As a sector, our immediate priority is ensuring the safety of our 46,000-strong workforce and their support services, so we can continue as an essential service and the responsibilities that come with that."
Dr Mackle said a number of issues are high on DairyNZ's radar right now.
"We are working to ensure dairy farmers have access to the people they need, particularly staff and our migrant workers. We have worked closely with the Government to see certainty provided around immigration and employment. We are pleased to see the visa extension recently announced.
"A second priority area is employment – there is opportunity for New Zealanders to find careers in dairying and help fill staff shortages. We are working with the Government on a programme which may provide options for people to go dairying.
"We are also looking ahead to Moving Day on June 1 – this is still a couple of months away, but we know planning needs to begin, especially with uncertainty around lockdown length and potential for stages out of it. We are preparing for protocols and processes farmers and their staff may need to undertake, when planning to move between farms."
DairyNZ is committed to supporting its 11,000 dairy farmers as they perform their vital food-producing role as an essential service.
"DairyNZ is providing support, advice and information to dairy farmers to ensure the best outcomes for farmers and New Zealanders as consumers of dairy," Dr Mackle said.
"It's critical for everyone to continue to look after their health and follow the advice to prevent the spread of Covid-19."
DairyNZ is actively working with sector partners including dairy companies, Federated Farmers, the Rural Support Trust, Dairy Women's Network, the Government including Ministers and MPI, to achieve coordinated support for farmers during Covid-19. It has coronavirus information on its website – which will be regularly updated.
"It includes information on how to manage farms well in the Covid-19 environment, how to protect staff and family members, and other practical advice," said Dr Mackle.
"We are also establishing new ways to keep farmers connected and supported over the coming weeks."
A new Covid-19 template 'keeping safe on dairy farms' helps farmers work through new practices and procedures with their teams.
Fact sheets are available to help farmers manage specific issues, including Covid-19 - A 10 point plan, tips for milking and keeping safe on dairy farms during the pandemic.
For advice and support, farmers can contact DairyNZ on 0800 4 DAIRYNZ (0800 4 324 7969) or email firstname.lastname@example.org