Voters say “yes” to Levy Poll Process Review recommendations

Dec 07, 2015

The results of voting on the Dairy Levy Poll Process Review were delivered on 2 December 2015, with the majority of voters in favour of the recommended changes. The levy payer vote drew 24.70% of votes, with 89.95% voting in support of the recommended changes.

ADF President, Simone Jolliffe said the Federal Government has now be advised of the outcomes of the three month consultation process.

“The essential question was whether levy payers believed we should opt for a levy poll only when a change in the levy was being sought,” said Mrs Jolliffe.

“Every levy payer has been contacted through the consultation process. They’ve been provided opportunity to comment and to vote for or against the recommendations of the review. The most significant recommendation is that a levy poll should only be held if a change to the levy is proposed.

“The response from levy payers including through the vote, which closed on Friday 27 November, provides a strong signal that dairy farmers believe the industry should make the changes to the levy poll process.”

Once the changes are made, if farmers believe a poll is necessary, there is a failsafe mechanism for a group of levy payers representing at least 15 per cent of levy votes to call a Dairy Australia general meeting and propose a resolution that a poll be held.

“Against the benchmark of a shareholder vote, the consultation and voter turnout for this review demonstrates significant engagement and support by levy payers,” Mrs Jolliffe said.

 

Voting for Levy Poll Process Now Open

Oct 30, 2015

Voting to change the levy poll process has now opened and it is time to have YOUR say. As the dairy industry’s peak policy and advocacy group Australian Dairy Farmers (ADF) is encouraging all dairy farmers to vote yes on their ballot papers, which were mailed last week to all dairy levy payers.

Voting yes means a Levy Poll would only be held when a change to the levy or its procedures is proposed. In short, no change, no Levy Poll.

After the last poll in 2012, the clear message from dairy farmers was that the efforts and funds dedicated towards the poll process could have been better spent delivering dollar value to dairy farmers. The change makes complete sense, saving at least $750 000 that will be redirected to industry programs.

Dairy farmers have made it clear in regional meetings across Australia that the industry should make the change. Now, we need to ensure that the Federal Government is confident that’s the view of levy payers by voting yes or no.

A yes vote will not remove Dairy Australia from scrutiny. Dairy Australia will still be required to undergo an independent performance review at least every five years, which will then inform an independent committee of industry representatives on whether or not a levy poll is required. If farmers believe a poll is necessary, there is a failsafe mechanism for a group of levy payers representing at least 15 per cent of levy votes to propose a poll.

The Dairy Levy Poll Process ballot can be completed by post, email, fax or online at www.computershare.com.au/dairylevy2015. Voting will remain open until midday (AEDT) Friday 27 November. For details on upcoming information sessions near you see www.dairylevypollreview.com.au

No change, no levy poll – you decide

Oct 05, 2015

It’s three years since Australian dairy farmers last voted in a levy poll to determine the level of contribution to Dairy Australia, the industry’s research and development body. Levy payers at that time approved the proposed levy increase of 10 per cent, but it was clear that the process was costly and distracting.

The 2012 levy poll process included over 50 meetings, took more than 15 months to complete, and cost in excess of $750,000 in levy funds. The time and money could have been better directed to delivering farm dollar value to dairy farmers.

In the wake of that poll, levy payers, Australian Dairy Farmers (ADF) and industry stakeholders agreed there must be a better way. The Dairy Australia board agreed to a review that will simplify the levy poll process reduce costs and retain farmer’s rights to be consulted about changes to the levy.

The six-member independent Dairy Levy Poll Process Review Panel delivered its report earlier this year, with unanimous recommendations for a more streamlined, cost-effective dairy levy poll process. The panel’s primary recommendation is that a poll only be conducted when a change in the levy or the levy process is sought. In other words, “no poll if no change”.

This doesn’t mean that levy payers or industry won’t have a say. It’s also not about removing Dairy Australia from scrutiny. The report recommends a vital “failsafe” mechanism where farmers can initiate a poll, if they believe it’s necessary.

If levy payers believe a poll is necessary, they can initiate one by bringing together a group of levy payers representing at least 15 per cent of levy votes.This would activate a Dairy Australia General Meeting where 50 per cent of voters would need to resolve to hold a poll.

The critical thing for Australia’s dairy farmers is that to move to “no poll if no change”, we need to impress on the Federal Government that this proposition has broad industry support.

ADF is consulting with dairy levy payers, to ensure all are aware of the proposed changes and have the opportunity to make their thoughts known and have any questions answered.

We’re asking the question of dairy farmers at field days, processor events and State Dairy Farming Organisation meetings.

Starting in October 2015 there will be a simple poll of levy payers, asking for either a “Yes” or “No” vote in support of the independent panel’s recommendation to change the levy poll process. If the change is supported, ADF will take this endorsement to the Federal Government – specifically the Agriculture Minister – and we could see this change legislated before the 2017 levy poll is due.

This is not about limiting scrutiny of Dairy Australia. In addition to the “failsafe” recommendation, Dairy Australia will still be subject to independent review every five years. What we want is a sensible, cost-effective way to get the best value from the levy. Dairy farmers have that opportunity in front of them, and it can be realised with a simple show of support, right now.

 

 

R,D&E Levy report handed down

Jul 17, 2015

On 30 June 2015, the Australian Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee released its report on the Australian agricultural levy system.

The report titled, “The industry structures and systems governing the imposition of and disbursement of marketing and research and development (R&D) levies in the agriculture sector” endorsed the current model of Rural Research and Development Corporations (RDCs) as well as suggesting improvements to current operating processes.

The Australian Dairy Industry Council (ADIC) submission into the inquiry advocated in support of the (RDCs) model and the opportunities for dairy farmers provided by Dairy Australia (DA). Whilst the ADIC considers that the Levy Poll framework provides an important opportunity for DA to talk to levy payers about their levy investment, it was also acknowledged that there is scope to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the process.

The diversity across the various commodities subject to levies was recognised by the report, as was the need for each industry to determine their own method of consultation and changes to the levy poll process.

Key points for dairy:

  • The report emphasizes that levy payers should be able to trace their levy payment to investment and return, and be able to have their say on investment of their levy.
  • The report notes that dairy currently undertakes a levy poll in order to change the levy rate, however it does not support such a poll for every industry, nor does it state that a levy is not an appropriate method.
  • The role of industry representative bodies, such as ADF, in the levy system is endorsed noting that peak industry groups play an essential role in providing opportunities for levy payers to influence investment decisions.
  • The report finds that the method of consultation is currently a burden on time, resources and industry and therefore should be streamlined.
  • The report emphasizes the importance of having a levy payer database as crucial for the system and engagement with levy payers.
  • The report does not conflict with where the DA levy poll review process is heading.

Overall the report has reaffirmed the importance of Australia’s Agricultural R&D levy system as crucial to the continued sustainable growth of the Australian dairy industry. The report highlights that there are always improvements to be made which will provide farmers with greater returns on their levy investments, while not recommending any substantial changes to the existing arrangement for dairy.

The Government will next formally consider the report and provide its response. For more information and to download a copy of the ADIC’s submission, click here.


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