GYMPIE dairy farmer and businessman John Cochrane survived a challenge at this month's Premium Milk elections to retain his seat and board chairmanship.
Mr Cochrane, who played a key role in securing the Hope Dairies $500,000 project for the Gympie region, was re-elected in a secret ballot for another two-year term to the seven-member Premium board, along with Beaudesert producer Peter Jervis and Darling Downs producer Christine Llewley.
He said yesterday he was delighted to be able to continue representing dairy farmers throughout south-east Queensland and northern New South Wales, and that he believed the Gympie dairy industry was on the cusp of an era of renewal.
Premium Milk supplies Parmalat with about 220 million litres of milk each year. About 60% of that comes from farmers in the Gympie region.
Mr Cochrane hopes many of the dairy farmers who succumbed to the crippling conditions of the past 14 years would now take advantage of the opportunity Hope Dairies represents to re-establish their herds and get back in the game.
Most Parmalat supply contracts also expire in late 2016 - the same time Hope Dairies plans to start exporting powdered baby formula to China.
Hope Dairies has made it clear it wants to draw a portion of its milk from local suppliers.
Mr Cochrane's family has a long history of representing dairy farmers.
His grandfather, Harry Cochrane, was on the board of Wide Bay Dairies from 1933 until his death in 1971, when he was chairman of the board.
Harry's son Alan was then elected to the board, staying with it until the factory closed down in 1986.
It was that same year that John was first elected to the Parmalat board (then called Suncoast Milk) and he has been there ever since.
"I don't think we should see Hope Dairies as driving other processing plants out of Queensland," Mr Cochrane said.
"Our hope is that Hope Dairies develops and grows the dairy industry in Queensland, with increased returns and producers.
"I think it will return some dormant dairy properties to dairy farms, thus growing support businesses in the Gympie region.
''This will in turn grow employment, grow the value of property, provide a lot of confidence and growth in the area and return Gympie to a strong agricultural base," he said.