Collaboration key to dairy success

Jul 09, 2016

With the official announcement of last weekend’s election yet to be made, the dairy sector (like the rest of the nation) is watching very closely and working to ensure that all political parties understand our priorities. Whatever the outcome, it is essential that stability reigns – effective policy formation and clear action to overcome challenges will be otherwise impossible.

Australian Dairy Farmers (ADF) has made clear its priorities for the next government – extend and streamline access to the concessional loans and Farm Household Assistance for all affected farmers, create a safer, more resilient workforce, ensure secure sustainable access to water resources and above all, address the imbalance of market power within the dairy supply chain.

It’s good to see that all parties have recognised the importance of supporting our farmers through the current challenge, as well as committing to developing innovative solutions to building long term sustainability of our industry.

However, it is concerning to see some are still calling for a fresh milk levy – an unworkable solution. If a fresh milk levy was imposed, it would potentially result in farmers who supply domestic markets subsidising their export market oriented counterparts. This is not a workable solution.

There are also potential difficulties associated with such a levy breaching Australian Competition and Consumer Commission regulations as well as potential issues with the World Trade Organisation.

The fundamental issue our farmers continue to face is that they wear the bulk of financial risk in the dairy supply chain. We need a practical and viable solution to increase transparency in the way the milk pricing system works and to simplify milk contracts to ensure the volatility of the market is better balanced along the supply chain.

This week UDV and ADF met with farmers in South West Victoria – to hear concerns, answer questions and build feedback about the current supply chain into our policy work. This is one of many meetings ADF will continue to participate in throughout the year, to ensure we are effectively representing farmers’ interests.

The discussion was robust. Overall, the consensus in the room was that trust has been broken and we need to find a way forward.

The challenges faced by farmers in Western Australia due to processor decisions reinforce the sector as a whole is enduring tough times – no state is immune.

Collaboration is what will get us to where we need to be. Our industry relies on all the elements to operate effectively. Farmers need processors and vice versa – so the solutions will require input from all parties.

Beyond this the public and the government ignore us if we do not operate as one. If we have a hung parliament, dairy will need parliamentary champions to advocate our policy priorities and the industry must work together to feed them that case.

David Basham

Acting ADF President

Keeping an eye on the big picture

Jun 23, 2016

The first priority over the last few weeks has been to secure targeted assistance and roll out support to help farmers with their most pressing needs.

At the same time, we remain focused on the big picture – especially when it comes to water. It won’t be enough to help farmers get over this hurdle if their businesses later fall over because water is too scarce and expensive to stay milking in seasons to come.

We can’t control the weather. The recent rains are a welcome reprieve, but to make a substantial difference to the bleak outlook on water allocations for next season it will need to keep raining heavily in the catchments over the next few months..

So while we watch the skies, our priority remains achieving long-term objectives on what can be controlled. Environmental water trading, the Murray Darling Basin Plan and the Connections reset all have an important bearing on whether enough water will be available when farmers need it and at a price they can afford in 2016/17 and beyond.

We are advocating for State and Federal Government commitments to assist our industry by making more water available next season. Potential untapped sources include trade in northern Victorian allocations to urban centres such as Melbourne, as well as a share of the environmental water held in Victorian and Commonwealth accounts.

The amendments to the Federal Water Act last month mean that the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder (CEWH) now has more flexibility to trade water it may not need. As of 31 March, the CEWH still had just over 300 GL in storage; while it has no plans to trade in 2016-17 at this stage, this may change as part of environmental planning now underway.

We also remain focused on the Connections reset. The announcement that only $388 million is left to deliver more than 100 GL savings was unwelcome news at a time when farmers already have so much on their plates. Now more than ever, we must get this reset right to provide sustainable infrastructure for a resilient dairy industry.

Once the election is over, we will be back in Canberra to keep the pressure on the elected party to achieve the Murray Darling Basin Plan’s environmental outcomes without removing any more water from irrigated agriculture.

State and Commonwealth Governments have an in-principle agreement to deliver the full 650GL in environmental offsets, and undertake more robust socio-economic assessment before any attempt to achieve more than the 2750 GL target. We are holding them to all of these commitments.

South Coast Flood Recovery Assistance

Jun 07, 2016

Since heavy rains and wild winds hit the south east cost on 5 June, flooding has significantly affected dairying regions in Queensland, New South Wales and Tasmania. These floods have added further issues to the industry which is already dealing with significant strain and instability.

The Australian dairy industry has mobilised quickly to provide farmers with support. 48 hours on from the damaging events, recovery assistance is the primary focus. We are working to understand the full impact of the floods to ensure targeted assistance for farmers. 

We are working to ensure farmers have adequate access to clean water and power to enable them to keep milking. Farmers are working to protect and care for their animals during these extreme events. Unfortunately, there have been reports of cows being lost to the floods and we empathise with farmers having to face this difficult situation.

Fencing is also an immediate concern, with the high water speed having destroyed many farm fences, as well as loss of pasture and newly sown crops. 

Please see below for information on seeking flood recovery assistance, further updates will be made as the information is made available: 

If my property has been affected, what should I be doing?

  • Try to focus on your priorities by writing a quick checklist of all the jobs that come to mind – classifying them by what needs to be done today, this week and later in the month. Download your Dairy Australia ‘recovery priority list’ here.
  • Take photos of the damage on your property to build up an inventory of losses (i.e. pumps, fencing, feed, etc).
  • Keep records of damage on your property until Helplines become available. Accurate and timely information will help the relevant departments secure the best possible level of disaster assistance.
  • Keep all your receipts associated with recovery efforts.
  • Remember to ask for help. 

What other support is there to assist me?

  • Find out about the options for milking without electricity supply here
  • Find out how to manage the health and welfare of cows during floods here.

 


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.


 

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