2016 PAG meetings in full swing

Mar 31, 2016

Australian Dairy Farmers’ (ADF) Policy Advisory Group (PAG) first round of meetings took place in March, identifying priorities for the election year with in depth discussion about issues continuing to affect farmers’ productivity and profitability.

Markets, Trade and Value Chain PAG Chair, Adam Jenkins said the group has come back refreshed and invigorated about the next 12 months of work.

“2015 saw considerable progress in the Markets, Trade and Value Chain policy focus area, with the implementation of the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement as well as developments in Competition policy which will foster a stronger business environment for farmers,” Mr Jenkins said.

“Yet the conditions are always volatile for dairy, and we must continue to find ways to build an even more competitive marketplace for farmers to ensure they can be productive and profitable.”

To set the scene for the key policy issues ahead, Rabobank’s Michael Harvey presented the Markets PAG with the outlook for 2016-17. PAG Chair, Adam Jenkins, said addressing technical barriers to trade will continue to be a focus of the Markets PAG this year.

On the natural resources front, the Natural Resource Management PAG discussed key issues for the year ahead. A focus of the meeting was the industry’s climate change policy, with discussions at the meeting engaging both the Climate Change Authority and Minister for Environment, Greg Hunt’s office respectively.

Water policy will also remain a major focus for 2016. PAG Chair, Daryl Hoey said 2016 is ‘crunch time’ for the Murray Darling Basin Plan.

“Despite the challenges it is faced with, the Murray Darling Basin is a region filled with opportunity for Australian dairy,” Mr Hoey said.

“We need the government to make sound, well-considered decisions to ensure the viability of dairy businesses in this region can continue long into the future. This remains a top priority for the Natural Resources PAG for the year ahead.”

ADF has five policy focus areas, each with a dedicated PAG comprised of elected farmer members. These groups are led by a farmer appointed Chair, working in collaboration with ADF policy officers to discuss priorities and strategic direction.

PAGs recommend policy settings to ADF via the National Council and also act in an advisory capacity providing feedback to Dairy Australia, state dairy farmer organisations (SDFOs), and other bodies like the National Farmers Federation and the Australian Dairy Products Federation.

Stay tuned to the ADF Update for more information about ADF’s PAG meetings as they roll out over 2016.


ADIC re-forms Water Taskforce

Jan 24, 2016

Over the course of 2015, the Australian Dairy Industry Council (ADIC) increased its advocacy focus on the impacts of the Murray Darling Basin Plan (MDBP) and the need for changes to the Plan and its implementation.

Significant achievements were made in 2015 with the Federal Government committing to legislation to cap water buybacks in the MDBP at 1500 gigalitres (GL). Further, indications that more flexibility will be provided for environmental water trading were welcome. However, the ADIC still has concerns regarding the MDBP’s unrealistic timelines as well as a lack of planned transition and structural adjustment.

2016 is a critical year in the Plan’s implementation. The deadline for the Sustainable Diversion Limit (SDL) adjustment mechanism is imminent. Progress with state offset projects leading up to this June 2016 review is also of significant concern.

Secure access to quality water is paramount to dairy’s future. Reduced access to the water resources the industry relies on will impact dairy’s profitability, productivity and international reputation. To ensure that the dairy industry’s key priorities are effectively represented and addressed in this discussion, the ADIC has re-formed its Water Taskforce.

The ADIC Water Taskforce, chaired by Victorian dairyfarmer Daryl Hoey, provides a cross-industry group to support the ADIC in driving for pro-dairy solutions in current and future opportunities for review and change.

The priorities of the Taskforce for 2016 are to seek a review and delay the 450GL ‘upwater’ as part of a stock take to better understand the effects (both positive and negative) of water recovery. Further, the Taskforce will also push for the delivery of the full 650 GL in environmental offsets to ensure any shortfall does not have to be covered by farmers. Other targets include a more transparent water market and information as well as ongoing monitoring and support for regional and state water programs including the Northern Basin and Menindee Lakes and Connections Reviews.

For further information about the ADIC’s Water Taskforce contact the ADF Office via (03) 8621 4200.

Increased support for financial counselling in drought stricken regions

Dec 22, 2015

More support has been announced for financial counselling in drought-stricken regions in New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Victoria and Western Australia. An extra $920,000 in funding has been provided for Rural Financial Counselling Service (RFCS) providers in those States to continue to help farmers battling drought.

The funds are in addition to the $14.3 million Commonwealth funding already allocated to the RFCS programme in 2015-16.

Australian Dairy Farmers (ADF) has welcomed this support, acknowledging the financial counselling service as a vital part of supporting dairy farmers through challenging times, including drought. ADF highlighted that the service helps people take control of their business again rather than allowing their business to take control of them.

Agriculture needs as many financial counsellors as possible across rural Australia according to ADF, particularly as drought continues to challenge many dairy regions.

The RFCS can support farmers with business planning, farm debt mediation and helping them access sources of professional, industry and government assistance. The services can vary from one ten-minute phone call with a person to on-going support across a number of years.

The additional funding provided by the Commonwealth Government toward the counselling initiative will be crucial over the coming months as the pressures of drought compound continue.

ADF encourages farmers to utilise the service and to keep in contact with neighbours who may be struggling during this time.

To find out about RFCS offered in your region contact your State Dairy Farming Organisation or visit http://www.ruralfinancialcounselling.org.au/.


 

Water Act Review Progresses but more still to be done

Dec 21, 2015

The Coalition’s response to the independent review of the Water Act 2007 was released in December 2015. The Government’s decision to adopt all of the recommendations, some wholly and others partially, including to provide greater trading flexibility for the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder (CEWH), is positive new for Australian dairy farmers.

The Australian Dairy Industry Council (ADIC) has lobbied hard for increased flexibility for the CEWH in optimising environmental outcomes in ways that ensure dairy producers have better access to water supplies. Dairy has proved a flexible and responsible user of water. We have adapted our practices to be more water-efficient. However, reduced access to water resources is already putting pressure on dairy’s productivity and profitability. This CEWH flexibility is key to helping our industry remain viable. It will also ensure a balanced approach to achieving environmental outcomes in the Murray Darling Basin.

The Government’s stated commitment to continue to work towards achieving a total 650GL supply offset is also positive. Achieving the full amount through environmental works means more water stays in the irrigation pools.

Chair of the ADIC’s Basin Taskforce, Daryl Hoey described the response as a positive first step but highlighted greater improvements in the implementation of the Act and the Murray Darling Basin Plan are still required.

“That the Government didn’t agree with the submissions of many to amend the Act to unambiguously state a triple-bottom-line objective or to strengthen the current implementation of the legislation is of concern. Such an approach is critical,” Mr Hoey said.

“It’s good to see the Government amend timelines to some evaluations and reviews under the Act. We now need such revisions to be applied to all elements of the Act.

“In particular, there is a need for a robust evaluation of environmental, economic and social impacts before considering an additional 450 gigalitres (GL) of water being taken from agriculture.”

To see the ADIC submission to the Water Amendment Bill 2015 click here.


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