With the election over, it's time to get things done

Jul 15, 2016

After ten days of vote counting, this week Australian Dairy Farmers (ADF) congratulates the Coalition Government on its re-election.

As an industry, dairy has enjoyed a constructive relationship with the Coalition throughout its previous term, and we look forward to continuing that spirit of this engagement.

With the election behind us, promises made can now be translated into concrete action.

Although the ministry will not be sworn in until next week, ADF has already met with the Department of Agriculture’s advisors to progress the roll out of key support measures announced in the Dairy Support Package. In particular we continue to highlight the urgency in providing immediate access for all affected farmers to Concessional Loans and the Farm Household Allowance support.

Importantly, concerns raised by farmers who have been working to access these measures, including by share farmers, are being taken seriously and will continue to be progressed with the government.

We will continue to work with the Coalition and the opposition to address other key priorities for the dairy industry also, including implementing an effects test to better balance market power throughout the supply chain, invest in rural research and development to build resilience, ensure secure access to sustainable water resources and support a national strategy to address technical barriers to trade.

Over the coming weeks, the ADF policy advisory groups will continue to meet in Melbourne to cement our priorities for the new government. Building industry resilience, as well as addressing the lack of transparency throughout the supply chain are on our agenda.

July has begun the same way June came to an end - with wild weather and floods challenging many dairying regions and low milk prices meaning revised budgets and planning across all farms.

As we work together to weather these storms we must remember that we are a resilient industry with a long, sustainable future ahead. Our profitability and therefore resilience as an industry depends greatly on the support of the Australian public.

We must continue to remind the community that dairy farmers – regardless of the challenges they face are good business people, who care for their cows, work to enhance the wellbeing of their people and that every efficiency we make on farm has ties to minimising our impact of the environment.

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

Reviews of supply contracts, pricing system underway

Jun 17, 2016

Dairy farmer representatives on the ADF Markets, Trade and Value Chain Policy Advisory Group (PAG) gathered in Melbourne this week to discuss a range of measures to establish a fairer, more transparent dairy market.

Simplifying supplier contracts and agreements featured heavily and methods to make them simpler and more transparent. Further to this the lack of transparency regarding milk pricing, and its ability to be retrospective is unacceptable and must be addressed.

The PAG also reviewed the methods to give clear, independent and credible market and price signals to dairy farmers and how this might be practically applied to the Australian dairy market.

Providing farmers with the right tools and resources to manage the opportunities and risks associated with a fluctuating dairy market was also a focus to help bolster the industry’s resilience in the long term.

Significantly, the meeting agreed upon the need to modernise the Australian industry’s pricing structures and contracts to recognise the complex operating environment that farmers face, to better balance financial risk along the supply chain. ADF is working with all state members, levels of Government and industry to achieve these endeavours.

ADF continues to press for the release of the full dairy support package as soon as possible and will update farmers as soon as this information is released.

We have had a couple of operational changes at ADF in recent weeks, with the resignation of ADF CEO Benjamin Stapley announced yesterday. The ADF Board has already taken steps to ensure that the role of CEO is well served in both the short and long term.

Contact has already been made with former ADF CEO John McQueen, now an industry consultant, to step into this important leadership role on an interim basis while the recruitment process is completed. Mr McQueen steps into the role as early as Monday morning and there will be a smooth, effective transition so no time is lost in fulfilling ADF’s mission to lobby for a stronger future for Australian dairy farmers.

These are unprecedented times and we need to ensure we have the right leadership balance to effectively address these issues, while not losing sight of other priorities important to building farmers long term sustainability.

The small team at ADF, remains committed to driving strong policy to transform the way our industry operates for the better.

Many farmers have been calling our offices in recent weeks seeking advice, assistance and information on what ADF is doing on their behalf. We encourage you to keep connecting with ADF to ensure we effectively represent your interests.

 

David Basham

Acting ADF President

Early pricing signals essential

Jun 10, 2016


Many in the dairy industry feel under enormous pressure at the moment. Farmers not only have the challenge of adapting their business plans to recent price shocks – we also pick up the paper to read about it every day. With more processors' opening milk prices due in coming weeks, following Warrnambool Cheese and Butter’s (WCB) announcement today, no doubt some will feel the pressure begin to mount once more.

We recognise that the announcement from WCB will come as a shock to many, given it is well below the cost of production. Despite the disappointing low price, we must recognise that they have heeded calls for early price signals and provided much needed certainty to their suppliers.

While we are an industry under pressure, we are also an industry that has the know-how and motivation to overcome these adversities and thrive in the long term. No one is alone in this scenario and we need to ensure that all farmers feel supported during tough times.

ADF, together with our state members and Dairy Australia is fighting for our farmers. We can’t solve all of the issues farmers are currently facing, but we can work to relieve some of the immediate pressures and accelerate change to ensure this doesn’t happen again.

We have welcomed the promises made by State and Federal Government, now they must stop playing politics and deliver. Farmers need certainty as to their options right now.

While we await Government decisions, there are industry resources available to help farmers manage the impact of recent events. It’s important to make the time to take up these opportunities. Dairy Australia’s Taking Stock provides free one-to-one business analysis that can help you prepare for the season ahead.

The Dairy Farmer Central website launched this week by the Victorian dairy industry, lists all of these tools and more. It also signposts events - some of these events will inform and help you plan for the season ahead, others provide an opportunity to take time out from the farm and get some perspective. We are working to make this website applicable Australia-wide.

These tools are not a silver bullet to restore our businesses but they will help navigate the challenges, so we can move toward a stronger, fairer and more sustainable future.

David Basham

ADF Acting President

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