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


 

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

ADF not affiliated with milk rally protests

May 24, 2016


Although Australian Dairy Farmers (ADF) supports any individuals right to peaceful demonstration, ADF is not in any way affiliated with ‘milk rallies’ being held to protest against milk price cuts.

We appreciate that the protestors are passionate about the dairy industry and finding solutions to help the dairy crisis.

However, we do not believe that this action is the best way to support our industry or find solutions to the challenges we face.

The industry has gained good traction so far in highlighting our plight to consumers, government and the wider community. State Governments in Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania have listened to us as industry leaders, and provided policy responses in recent days and weeks. This has included another significant announcement in Victoria today.

We are concerned that rallies will create confusion and detract from the main issue: the financial and emotional wellbeing of our dairy farmers.

ADF continues to be in discussions with both sides of Federal Government on a support package which can be rolled out across the country to affected dairy farmers. Our goal is this: to advocate on behalf of farmers to get immediate support and prevent the issue from occurring in future.

A rally won’t provide this.

A 50c levy would not deliver a solution for our industry on a whole as it would mean farmers in non-exporting markets (such as Northern NSW, Queensland and WA) would be subsidising their south-eastern counterparts.

A levy is not viable or practical solution and further to this we have had indications from both sides of government that they would be unlikely to support it.

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