What We Really Need Now

Aug 19, 2016

The Four Corners ‘Milked Dry’ program aired Monday 15th and highlighted the financial toll that cheap dairy products and fluctuations in both the domestic and global markets have taken on dairy farmers. This state of crisis has also shown just how far consumers will rally to help our struggling industry, but it will only solve half the problem.

What we really need now is to go beyond short term measures to create stability for our industry’s long term future. The need for transparency and improved fairness by finding new ways to manage price volatility for farmers; and through simplifying supply contracts so farmers know exactly what it means and how it will affect them.

The first in a series of formal talks with the dairy industry, the Prime Minister Malcom Turnball, Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce and representatives of Murray Goulburn met to discuss ways to increase the profitability of the Australian dairy industry in order to support farming families and their communities. An important thing to take away from this meeting is the fact that the Australian Government and Murray Goulburn both agreed that Australia’s dairy farmers deserve fair returns at the farm gate, as well as transparency in milk price arrangements and supply contracts. Another important outcome was the role Murray Goulburn will play in explaining to their suppliers what steps they will take to support farmers and restore confidence to the dairy sector.

We expect a similar message and outcome of next week’s meeting between Fonterra’s Australian management and the Government who will continue to discuss the state of the dairy industry and how the current issues could be avoided in the future.

The last in the series of talks is the dairy symposium to be held in Melbourne on August 25, chaired by Minister Joyce with representatives from the farming, processing and retail sectors. We will be asking the government to formally review a number of high priority issues including $1 milk, fair contract terms and conditions, and a world dairy commodity pricing index.

At ADF, we are working closely with state members and dairy farmer representatives to make sure the government continues to strengthen the industry through consultation with both Australia’s dairy farmers and processors. We are committed to provide innovative and practical solutions to help farmers achieve a sustainable level of profitability and ensure that our farmers’ best interests are reflected in the work we do so they can take control of their situation and make informed choices.

One of the ways the government is helping dairy farmers is by providing assistance through a $579 million support package. This package includes access to Dairy Recovery Concessional Loans, Farm Household Allowance (FHA), the Rural Financial Counselling Service and an additional $900,000 for Dairy Australia to roll out ‘Tactics for Tight Times’ one-to-one farm business advice.

The government support package is there to help us through this difficult time. It is very important that dairy farmers, including farm owners, share-farmers or leasers not self-assess their eligibility for government assistance. If you have any questions relating to whether you are eligible for the concessional loans, please contact a financial counsellor or the relevant state delivery agency as they will be able to help you with information and the application process.

David Basham

Acting ADF President  


 

 

Coalition Continues Support for Australian Dairy Farmers

Aug 08, 2016

The ADF has heard from Minister Joyce that he will be convening a symposium on dairy issues as part of the Coalitions election commitments. The ADF will be working hard with state organisation members over the next few weeks to prepare for the Symposium.

We expect it will provide an opportunity to discuss the major issues facing the industry including $ milk, fair contract terms and conditions, a world dairy commodity pricing index, issues in WA where some farmers have been given notice of not being picked up and backpacker tax, to name a few of the high priority issues.

While we have welcomed the Governments support package we continue to urge changes to the criteria for access to most elements of the Governments support package, particularly the concessional loans package.

The plan announced in the lead up to the 2016 election, included $555 million in concessional loans with 10-year loan terms, $20 million for an upgrade to Gippsland irrigation infrastructure, $2 million to establish a commodity milk price index and $1.8 million to provide business and financial counselling.

I urge all farmers to not self-assess whether they are eligible for the concessional loans support package. We know many have had difficulty with access and we have been able to use some of these experiences in our ongoing discussions with the Department for changes to the eligibility criteria.

The Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister will be meeting with the Murray Goulburn Board to discuss the global and domestic challenges facing Australian dairy farmers. It will be interesting to hear the outcome of this meeting. Mr. Joyce will then convene the dairy farmer symposium with the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources

The ongoing support and commitment of government is essential for us to successfully navigate through these trying times so we are able to provide innovative and practical solutions to help farmers achieve a sustainable level of profitability. We need to ensure that the solutions we present are in our farmers’ best interests, so they can take control of their situation and make informed choices.

ADF thanks Barnaby Joyce for maintaining this election promise and his continued commitment to seeking solutions to the current dairy situation.

David Basham

Acting ADF President


 

Senate must prioritise Water Bill

Apr 05, 2016

The Water Amendment Bill 2015 makes positive strides toward improving the Murray Darling Basin Plan, providing much needed flexibility.

It is essential that the Australian Senate passes the Bill when it returns to Canberra for its sitting starting 18 April. If the Bill does not pass before the election it will face significant delay, to the detriment of communities and industries in the Murray Darling Basin.

Without the flexibility the Bill provides, the States and Commonwealth will be locked into decisions in June that will likely lead to even more water being removed from agriculture and the communities that depend on irrigated industries like dairy.

In particular, the proposed amendments deliver more flexible timelines for reviews of the Basin Plan and related changes to the Sustainable Diversion Limit (SDL), which determine how much water can be extracted from the rivers for human consumption, including agriculture.

The Bill also provides greater trading flexibility for the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder (CEWH). This flexibility will deliver positive environmental outcomes while simultaneously giving the community, farmers and manufacturers more certainty on their access to water supplies.

The dairy industry has strongly lobbied for these changes, and supports their implementation.

Dairy farmers in the Murray Darling Basin have proved flexible users of water, steadily adapting their practices to produce more milk with less water over the last 20 years.

We need the Murray Darling Basin Plan and the law that sits behind it to have the same flexibility. The Basin Plan is already having a significant impact on farmers, manufacturers and the rural communities they support, with more to come as recovery deadlines approach.

If we are to continue to adjust to the inevitable changes in water availability and affordability we need a plan with clear, appropriate targets and approaches, that can also adjust. This will help deliver positive outcomes for the environment, community and industry.

Passing the Water Amendment Bill will provide the Murray Darling Basin community with the confidence that Canberra politicians are willing to improve the Plan in advance of considering decisions in June. 

At this time, the Commonwealth and State Governments will either make or break the Basin Plan. We need the Water Bill to pass to ensure the pending decisions under the Basin Plan this year are based on a foundation of flexibility.

Let your representatives know the importance of supporting the passage of this Bill through the Senate as quickly as possible by contacting your local, state and federal parliamentarians. See here to get the details of parliamentarians for your region.


 

Water Act Review Progresses but more still to be done

Dec 21, 2015

The Coalition’s response to the independent review of the Water Act 2007 was released in December 2015. The Government’s decision to adopt all of the recommendations, some wholly and others partially, including to provide greater trading flexibility for the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder (CEWH), is positive new for Australian dairy farmers.

The Australian Dairy Industry Council (ADIC) has lobbied hard for increased flexibility for the CEWH in optimising environmental outcomes in ways that ensure dairy producers have better access to water supplies. Dairy has proved a flexible and responsible user of water. We have adapted our practices to be more water-efficient. However, reduced access to water resources is already putting pressure on dairy’s productivity and profitability. This CEWH flexibility is key to helping our industry remain viable. It will also ensure a balanced approach to achieving environmental outcomes in the Murray Darling Basin.

The Government’s stated commitment to continue to work towards achieving a total 650GL supply offset is also positive. Achieving the full amount through environmental works means more water stays in the irrigation pools.

Chair of the ADIC’s Basin Taskforce, Daryl Hoey described the response as a positive first step but highlighted greater improvements in the implementation of the Act and the Murray Darling Basin Plan are still required.

“That the Government didn’t agree with the submissions of many to amend the Act to unambiguously state a triple-bottom-line objective or to strengthen the current implementation of the legislation is of concern. Such an approach is critical,” Mr Hoey said.

“It’s good to see the Government amend timelines to some evaluations and reviews under the Act. We now need such revisions to be applied to all elements of the Act.

“In particular, there is a need for a robust evaluation of environmental, economic and social impacts before considering an additional 450 gigalitres (GL) of water being taken from agriculture.”

To see the ADIC submission to the Water Amendment Bill 2015 click here.


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