United we stand, divided we fall

Jul 05, 2018

It’s not news to say that the Australian dairy industry is highly fractured. Divisions exist all along the supply chain, often for historical reasons.

We should acknowledge the impact of the challenges of the last few years - the bargaining imbalance between different sections of the industry, volatile markets reflected in farmgate milk prices, adverse seasonal conditions, and other factors outside farmers’ control.

While there has been hardship for many, this environment has facilitated a culture of blame and negativity, which now permeates the industry and could have destructive consequences.

It is doing none of us any favours to attack our own. Our focus must be on working together to rebuild our industry.

Every step along the value chain depends on strong relationships, based on trust and confidence, the value of which we only know when it’s lost.

Much has been made of the trust deficit engulfing our industry. It has been broadly acknowledged that trust has been lost right across the supply chain. But we cannot let anger describe us. We simply cannot allow the industry to implode.

Tough questions bring forward new options. Cynicism leaves us closed to new ideas. There is always be room for differences to be expressed. But this process must be constructive.

It is vital that we find a way to cooperate, share knowledge and support each other - bring together our considerable capacity for optimism and resources to face the future. Only through sharing our experiences can we truly understand and regain trust in our industry.

Unfortunately, this is common advice which is rarely followed. It is sad to note that the Australian dairy industry traditionally has failed to stick together during difficult times, when unity is most important. We cannot let this vicious cycle of negativity continue.

We have a lot to be proud of as an industry. Our achievements are significant, but imagine how effective we could be as a cohesive, united industry? That’s how we have an impact. That’s how we influence decision makers.

We need to show our unity of purpose, shared belief and passion for the dairy industry. None of us by ourselves has an answer to what may be sought, but unity brings an open, honest, and shared discussion about the challenges faced by our friends, neighbours, or the broader industry.

If we cannot deal with challenges as an industry, there is a real problem. We need unity, collaboration and support if we are to affect change. If we don’t have farmers sitting at the table, we lose the opportunity to help ourselves and influence the future for others

How can we expect government to help us if we can’t first help ourselves? Government doesn’t want us to dump our problems on them. They want us to seriously consider solutions that they can implement to benefit industry.

It’s time to stop being part of the problem and start contributing to the solution. Share your pride in the work we do and value the need to contribute to industry development. Acknowledge the belief others have shown in us through investment and a shared desire for a sustainable industry.

Join a local branch of your state dairy farming organisation, bring forward your ideas and help rebuild a strong and vibrant dairy industry.

Engage with industry leaders at all levels. They need to hear from you. Reach out with respect and ensure they have an opportunity to walk with you and share your issues.

Be tough on issues but also respectful to our friends and others who are taking action on your behalf.

Our industry depends on our ability to unite.

Skilled migrant labour vital for dairy

Jul 03, 2018

We need to address the skilled labour shortage on Australian dairy farms. It’s an issue that has been around for years and can be resolved by the federal Government making minor changes to its skilled migration program.

Technology, automation, intensification, self-regulation and globalisation are making our farms more complex and skills based. In the context of an ageing workforce and difficulties attracting and retaining young people to farming, the dairy industry has become more reliant on skilled foreign workers to operate its farms.

Dairy is Australia’s third largest agricultural industry, with $4.3 billion gross value of milk production and employment of 26,000 people on farm. Despite a couple of difficult years of below average milk prices the industry has added over 3,000 new jobs on farm over the past five years.

Unfortunately, a number of these jobs are being filled by Australians who are ill-equipped to handle the roles. They find it difficult to satisfy food safety standards, administer veterinary and other animal husbandry requirements, operate technology or are generally unable to fulfil the obligations of a skilled dairy farm manager or leading hand.

A consequence of not meeting these performance expectations is turnover. In the last study of pastoral industries employeeturnover was reported to costthe dairy industry between$336and$364millionayear or an average of $22,500peremployeeperfarm. Given that most dairy farms operate as professional businesses paying above award rates, these figures are simply unacceptable.

Some success has been achieved in the industry via Australia’s previous 457 visa class system. Prior to March 2018 when it was abolished, local farmers were able to sponsor skilled overseas workers to work temporarily up to four years in Australia. This enabled the dairy industry to recruit foreigners who had worked for many years on dairy farms or completed tertiary education in agriculture science in their home country.

The Government made changes after the Fair Work Commission found 40 per cent of 457 visa holders were no longer employed by a sponsor or were being paid well below the statutory minimum wage of $53,900. This is significant given Australia’s record high immigration program of 190,000 per annum, most of whom come under the skilled migration program. The unfortunate thing for the dairy industry is that it now must suffer because of other industries abusing the system.

The two new skilled visa classes introduced by the Government include a Short-term stream and a Medium-term stream. The Short-term stream is for employers seeking temporary overseas skilled workers in occupations included on the Short-term Skilled Occupation List (STSOL) for up to two years. The Medium-term stream is for employers seeking highly skilled overseas workers to fill medium-term critical skills in occupations on the Medium and Long-term Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL) for up to four years, with eligibility to apply for permanent residence after three years.

Occupations listed on the STSOL and MLTSSL are determined by the Department of Jobs and Small Business based on an annual survey and analysis of the Australian labour market. The issue for the dairy industry is the survey rarely goes out to farmers, so its needs are not reflected in the list determination.

The department uses the occupations listed on the Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO). It describes the dairy industry as having one job on farm - a Dairy Cattle Farmer, which is completely out of touch with reality.

The more accurate depiction is Dairy Australia’s National Dairy Farmer Survey, which lists five occupations on a dairy farm. In order of skill these include a Business Manager, Production Manager, Senior Farm Hand, Farm Hand and Assistant Farm Hand. The difference highlights the need for an ANZSCO overhaul to reflect the professional and actual nature of dairy farming in the 21st century.

In March 2018 the Department listed a Dairy Cattle Farmer on the STSOL only. This means the amount of time an immigrant can work on a dairy farm has been reduced from four years under the previous 457-visa system to two years under the new STSOL. Given dairy farm jobs are permanent (as opposed to seasonal) and struggling to attract workers at the senior level, this categorisation is a backward step for the industry.

Resolving labour shortages in the positions of Senior Farm Hand, Production Manager and Business Manager can only be achieved by listing them on the MLTSSL. Skilled migrants will only apply for these roles when they are guaranteed four, not two, years of employment and have a pathway to permanent residence.

The Government must ensure its skilled migration program reflects Australia’s workforce needs. All occupations need to be included in the lists and immigration targets set based on numbers required in each occupation.

Agriculture is a growth industry in Australia. We are working on a plan to increase our gross value of production from $60 billion currently to over $100 billion in 2030. There are many drivers required to achieve this target. A permanent skilled workforce is one of the highest priorities.

Expressions of Interest Open for the ADF Board

Sep 15, 2017

Nominations for three Business Director positions and an Independent Director on the Australian Dairy Farmers’ (ADF) Board opened today.

ADF is calling on its members to nominate eligible candidates for three Business Director positions and an Independent Director position.

ADF President, Terry Richardson said that we are looking for dairy farmers who are passionate about advancing dairy farming in Australia and have a strong industry commitment.

“The maximum term a Business Director may serve is three years without submitting for re-election and an Independent Director may serve two years without submitting for re-election,” said Mr Richardson.

ADF currently has two Business Directors who were elected at the 2014 AGM for a three (3) year term, these Directors must retire and may nominate for re-election.

Additionally, following the retirement of a past President in February, a temporary Business Director was appointed in May 2017 to fill the casual vacancy. As required by the constitution, the Business Director must retire and may nominate for re-election.

The Independent Director was elected in November 2015 for a two-year term and must retire, however may seek to be re-appointed for another term.
Director elections will take place at the ADF’s next Annual General Meeting on Thursday 24 November, 2017.

The eligibility criteria for the position of Business Director are:
• Must be in the business of dairy farming
• Must be a member of Australian Dairy Farmers Limited; and
• Must be eligible under clause 4.2.2 of the ADF Constitution (no more than two Business Directors from any one state)

If you wish to receive a nomination form or position description please contact the ADF Office via (03) 8621 4200 or email operations@australiandairyfarmers.com.au.

Applications close midday (AEST) Thursday 28 September 2017.

Terry Richardson

ADF President

 


 


 



Advancing Dairy Farming

Sep 01, 2017

Starting a new job (adventure) is sometimes difficult, particularly after a crisis.

Over the last couple of months, I have had the opportunity to sit down and discuss many of the issues that the dairy industry has faced.

Last year was an extremely challenging time in the world of dairy, both internationally and domestically.

Many farmers were hit by late season farmgate step-downs, which came after a difficult season due to dry conditions and increased input costs.The lack of demand and oversupply of dairy worldwide caused prices to crash which left many farmers with significant debt.

No doubt it will take the industry a long time to recover, not just financially but emotionally as well.

Now, when some dairy farmers may still be questioning their future I challenge all within the dairy industry to work with each other in collaboration to show our farmers what we can provide for their future.

The future of dairy must become exciting and rewarding. It needs to be driven by smart business decisions, strong leadership and the willingness to work through our differences to get the job done.

This will not happen by accident, rather through visionary people working across the whole supply chain.

We realise that some dairy farmers have reached a ‘fork in the road’ and are looking for immediate answers. It would be wrong of us to say we had all the answers, which we don’t.

Let’s get our collective efforts behind something we can do in partnership for our industry.

Advancing dairy farming is our top priority.

David Inall

ADF Chief Executive Officer

 

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