Time for young dairy representatives to step forward

Posted on Thursday, September 13, 2018 - Category: In the News

I was in Canberra last month and witnessed first-hand the political turmoil that rocked the federal Government and which ultimately led to a change of Prime Minister.

Ironically, I was accompanying a group of young dairy industry professionals as part of the Developing Dairy Leaders Program, run by Marcus Oldham College with support from Australian Dairy Farmers and Dairy Australia.

The aim of the program is to expose the next generation of dairy representatives to industry advocacy and the Australian political process.

What they received was a valuable bonus lesson: leadership is everything.

Many of these young farmers had never visited the “bush capital” and had little understanding of how Canberra operates. For them, it was eye-opening to be caught up in the feverish atmosphere that engulfed the city during those four days.

But the leadership lesson is transferrable to the dairy industry, which we all know has struggled with its own leadership issues in recent years.

We talk a lot about unity. We talk about creating the mindset of one team, one dream. But at some point, these words lose their value if we fail to act.

The young dairy professionals I accompanied last week were in fierce agreement that unity is the vital element to ensuring a successful dairy industry.

This sentiment was reinforced by Agriculture Minister David Littleproud, who told the group that if they want to be taken seriously and influence federal politicians to achieve real outcomes for the dairy industry, the sector first needs to show leadership.

I have written before about the fractured state of the dairy industry. Our differences have become pronounced. Too often, we think only about the interests of our individual regions, instead of common ground that could provide a national, tangible benefit for dairy farmers.

This makes it difficult for political decision-makers in Canberra to understand which policies are likely to have the greatest benefit for farmers. Politicians love an industry that brings to them solutions instead of problems. But instead we have an industry too concerned with its internal issues to agree on solutions to the many problems we face.

As we saw in Canberra, this situation can have many consequences but won’t lead to outcomes.

The question is usually posed on social media: why can't dairy advocacy groups work together on behalf of farmers? The simple answer is there's no reason why we can't.

ADF, as the national peak organisation for dairy farmers, is the group responsible for taking solutions to Canberra and asking the federal government for its support in enacting these measures. To be effective, we need constructive input from farmers across the country who want to ensure a secure and prosperous future for the dairy industry.

Hopefully, this means you. We need you to join your state dairy farmer organisation and join the cause. Contribute your ideas and help us maintain a sustainable dairy industry.

- Terry Richardson, ADF President


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