Farm Life - Animal Health and Welfare

May 26, 2017

Farm animal welfare is a significant issue in Australia and overseas, and consumers are increasingly interested in knowing that a high standard of animal welfare is maintained throughout the supply chain of products they purchase.

Healthy and well cared for cows are a priority for every dairy farmer as it is central to having a successful and sustainable dairy farm.

There are many on-farm practices that have been part of dairy farming for hundreds of years and we must ensure we have a social license from consumers to continue the practices. We recognise that some things that happen on-farm can be confronting to people who are not farmers and may not understand the reason behind them. It is up to us to ensure the public understand what we do, why we do it and that at the core of every farmer is the health and wellbeing of their animals.

As an industry, we take our responsibilities for animal welfare seriously and are committed to continuous improvement of our animal husbandry practices. All farm animals must be treated with care.

We want our consumers to know farmers, processors, transporters and meat processors actively engage with each other to ensure all cows and calves are treated humanely.

The Australian dairy industry supports the Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Cattle as well as the Land Transport Standards and Guidelines. These were developed in partnership with the animal welfare groups and Government, and provide the industry with a clear vision that the welfare of all animals in Australia is promoted and protected by the adoption of sound animal welfare standards and practices.

We are continuously working to improve animal welfare standards to ensure we meet consumer and public expectations and expect all persons managing livestock abide by these standards to ensure best practice is observed on-farm.

It is a priority of the dairy industry to regularly review policies and practices in line with public perceptions and to invest in ongoing national training and education to ensure farmers constantly strive to go above and beyond the agreed standard.

ADF, in collaboration with Dairy Australia, and other industry partners continue to work with industry, Government and animal welfare groups such as the RSPCA to ensure the wellbeing of our herds in all farming systems.

John McQueen

Interim ADF Chief Executive Officer

 

Fonterra follows on from Murray Goulburn

May 12, 2017

Following on from Murray Goulburn’s (MG) announcement last week, Fonterra made a similar announcement yesterday.

It is important to note that the actions of MG and Fonterra in late April/early May last year has caused enormous heartache for farmers and the industry. Those impacted were hit hard and it will take a long time for the farmers to recover and rebuild not just financially but their herd sizes, their confidence, and their emotional well-being.

These financial hits on farmers should never have happened. 

Through no fault of their own, farmers who left MG or Fonterra, did so because they had no other financial option. The lack of reimbursement to these farmers from the MG MSSP and the Fonterra Australia Support Loans Package respectively appears discriminatory and unfair.

While ADF acknowledges that both MG and Fonterra will be reimbursing existing (and retired) suppliers, they have both made a point to deny those farmers who are no longer suppliers, yet were equally financially disadvantaged. 

ADF believes that farmers who were financially forced to leave their processor should not be forced to continue to bear the cost of processor actions. There are serious questions that must be answered about the fairness and equity of the financial impacts and treatment of those who had to move to other processors.

Trust and respect are important parts of any business relationship and this has been lost for many farmers who supplied and currently supply MG and Fonterra. Not only has trust and respect been damaged but so too has industry confidence, and this will take a long time to restore.

To ensure a positive future, our industry relies on all the elements to operate effectively. Now more than ever, the dairy industry needs to remain focused and united in its goals to achieve a shared vision of improving the profitability and sustainability of dairy farmers and the entire dairy industry in Australia.

ADF will continue to work with both processors and farmers to rebuild confidence and trust. It will take time and will require a commitment by processors to treat their farmers as equal partners and with the respect they deserve.

John McQueen

Interim ADF Chief Executive Officer

 

Where to from here - the 457 visa

Apr 21, 2017

Dairy is a highly dynamic industry offering lots of opportunities for career growth and development. However, it is no secret that we have domestic labour shortages in regional and rural areas.

Our preference is always to hire Australian workers, but there are not always enough experienced farmhands to meet the demand of our industry. This is despite more than a decade of offering training courses and pathway programs for Australian workers to enter the dairy industry.

ADF has continued to lobby the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) for regulation amendments to visas allowing overseas workers to fill vital on-farm and off-farm roles.

This week, the Government announced that the 457 Temporary Work visa will be abolished and replaced with the completely new Temporary Skill Shortage visa by March 2018. ADF is concerned with the changes and is seeking clarification on many aspects from the DIPB.

We have now been advised that the current visa changes will have no impact on the Dairy Industry Labour Agreement, which allows dairy farmers to recruit senior farm hands. We have been assured that:

  • our existing labour agreements remaining in effect;
  • our existing visa holders not impacted unless they apply for another visa impacted by the changes outside of the labour agreement programme; or
  • new nominations that we intend to lodge/related visa applications are not impacted – including applications for occupations which have been ‘removed’ from the standard programme or are now subject to a caveat in the standard programme but remain specified in our agreement.

We also understand that under these changes, which come into effect immediately:

  • dairy cattle farmers are included on the short-term skilled occupation list and only able to apply for a 2-year visa;
  • 2-year visas can only be renewed once, which will lead to an increase in administrative burden and red tape on farmers looking to access these new visas;
  • dairy, like other agricultural commodities is not included on the medium to long term strategic skilled occupation list to access 4-year visas; and
  • changes have been made to the Employer Nomination Scheme (subclass 186) visa and to the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (subclass 187) visa.

We are still in the process of gaining clarification on what will happen to current visa applicants who are waiting on approvals and the additional occupations available to support regional employers. 

ADF supports the employment of overseas workers to fill vital on-farm roles. We will continue to liaise with government to ensure dairy farmers that need to employ overseas staff can do so.

John McQueen

Interim ADF Chief Executive Officer

 

ACCC now targeting Unfair Contracts

Apr 07, 2017

The new unfair contract terms law is a priority for the ACCC in 2017. It will ensure small businesses, including those which are farms, receive the right type of protection.

We have been advised that the ACCC will be taking enforcement action against a number of companies across a range of industries over business-to-business unfair contract terms this year.

For the past six months, ADF together with State Member Dairy Organisations and Processor Members of the ADPF have been working on the Code of Practice for contractual agreements between farmers and processors. The development of this code is instrumental in protecting dairy farmers from unfair clauses and protecting our processors from incurring millions of dollars in fines. Now with full industry support, the Code of Practice is due to be finalised shortly.

The ACCC has reinforced the importance that if you operate a small business, you may be required to enter into standard form contracts with other businesses for goods and services. All dairy farmers should check the contracts they have with suppliers of inputs, like grain, to ensure they conform to the new legislation. The Australian Consumer Law now prohibits unfair terms in most of these contracts.

In their communications, the ACCC stated that it was no secret that traders (typically larger businesses) put potentially unfair clauses in their agreements, such as terms that give them:

  • an unreasonable ability to cancel or terminate an agreement
  • broad and potentially unreasonable powers to protect themselves against loss or damage
  • the ability to unilaterally change the terms of the contract
  • unilateral discretion to reject or downgrade produce
  • an unreasonable ability to limit or prevent small businesses from exiting their contracts. 

To be 'unfair', a term must:

  • cause a significant imbalance in the parties' rights and obligations
  • not be reasonably necessary to protect the legitimate interests of the party advantaged by the term, and
  • cause financial or other detriment (such as delay) to a small business if it were relied on. 

If you come across terms in a standard form contract you have been offered or you have entered into, and which you think may be unfair, you can report it to the ACCC Infocentre

For more information, including the definition of a small business and the meaning of 'unfair' contract terms, please see the ACCC website

John McQueen

Interim ADF Chief Executive Officer

 

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