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Friday, June 24, 2016
Australian Dairy Farmers’ (ADF) first priority in recent months has been to secure support for our industry led initiatives, and targeted assistance from Federal and State Government to help see farmers through the short term cash flow crisis. It is frustrating that this has created the expectation of immediate relief yet some farmers are not eligible. We continue to lobby strong on farmers’ behalf to secure access for all affected farmers to Dairy Recovery Loans, now available in Victoria and Tasmania . We expect criteria to be released imminently in South Australia and New South Wales.
Many farmers have been calling the ADF and state dairy farming offices to discuss these assistance mechanisms, and highlight accessibility issues. We encourage all concerned farmers to keep these communication channels flowing as it is vital for ADF to know which issues to target.
As an industry, we are going beyond these short term measures to create stability for our industry’s long term future. Central to this is finding new ways to manage price volatility for farmers.
ADF in collaboration with our state members has long advocated the need for competition policy reform that addresses the unequal balance of market power in the supply chain with not only a Mandatory Code of Conduct to control said power, but also a Supermarket Ombudsman to effectively regulate the code. We have made important inroads in the last two years, but there is still work to be done.
Ideas developed through the Markets, Trade and Value Chain meeting last week are being progressed and work with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is gaining traction.
All three major political parties have come to the table to discuss potential solutions over recent weeks, and this is to be commended. It is essential that this movement does not stop at political rhetoric, but rather translate to real and tangible changes for our industry.
Ensuring issues that affect our entire sector’s ongoing productivity and competitiveness are on the Federal political agenda remains equally important during these tough times.
In particular, ADF continues to seek commitments from all political parties to support dairy’s access to secure, affordable water resources. While recent rainfall has been a welcome reprieve for many regions the long term outlook for water allocations remains bleak. ADF continues to push for vital changes to the Murray Darling Basin Plan and environmental water trading to make certain enough water is available when farmers need it and at an affordable price.
Funding for dedicated agricultural health services and resources is urgently required to safeguard the wellbeing of our workforce. Federal Government should make ongoing commitments to vital resources including the National Centre for Farmer Health to match that of State Government.
We continue to work closely with the National Farmers Federation to accelerate agriculture by addressing key workforce issues including the scrapping of the backpacker tax, as well as supporting industry’s efforts to reduce carbon emissions intensity.
Ensuring these priority areas are addressed in the upcoming election will enable our industry to take control of its own destiny, and develop a stronger, more prosperous and sustainable future.
Australian dairy farmers know we’re not immune to significant market forces such as the slowdown in the Chinese economy, or the Russian ban on importing product. But the low prices announced recently will be below the cost of production for many farmers. While some have faced such volatility before their current situation is no doubt compounded by the unprecedented challenges driven by processor decisions in the 2015-16 financial year.
ADF continues to work with all our state members - QDO, NSWFarmers, SADA, TFGA, UDV and WAFarmers as well as industry partners to hold State and Federal Government to their promises of support, and to drive real, meaningful change throughout the supply chain for the betterment of our industry. Together we are stronger than we will ever be divided – and united we will support farmers through the challenges they currently face.
Acting ADF President
Friday, June 24, 2016
Commonwealth and State water ministers have promised Murray Darling Basin communities some
vital breathing space on water recovery for the environment under the Basin Plan.
The agreement reached at the ministerial council meeting in late April won’t relieve the immediate pressures around milk price, drought and high water prices. Responding to these pressures is the priority for farmers.
Damage to confidence through current market conditions must not be hit further by water policy decisions that can be controlled by ministers. The recent agreement is significant step to longer term certainty on water for production.
The ministers’ agreement for the first time stopped talking about socio-economic effects as an afterthought to be addressed once environmental water targets were met. Instead socio-economic effects will be considered upfront alongside environmental outcomes.
Vigilance is required to ensure Federal Parliament accepts the Basin Plan amendments to implement the ministers’ agreement, and to ensure these commitments are not compromised in the policy bidding wars of a closely fought federal election campaign.
The agreement delivers vital flexibility for water projects well ahead of the looming 30 June deadline for the Sustainable Diversion Limit adjustment (SDL). Projects to deliver environmental benefits equivalent to 650GL of water will now be submitted in two stages – June this year and June 2017.
Previously only projects on the table in June this year would contribute towards offsetting the volume recovered from irrigators and through infrastructure savings. That was only 370 GL worth, based on Murray Darling Basin Authority assessments at the ministerial meeting.
More reasonable timeframes are something long advocated by ADF.
The Authority will now model the remaining 22 of the 37 projects submitted by the States so far. The ministers expect all 37 projects will deliver more than 500GL. The States will also scope out additional projects, such as carp control, to deliver the remaining 150GL in offsets by the second deadline in June 2017.
While a further 450GL of ‘upwater’ remains on the table in addition to the Basin Plan’s 2750GL target, the agreement suggests a more rigorous assessment of potential socio-economic effects before any more water is removed.
This sets the tone for future decisions on the Basin Plan – favouring quality of environmental outcomes over quantity of water, and that the Plan doesn’t punish a vibrant and productive agricultural sector.
Ministerial decisions such as these do not happen on their own, there is a lot of work, ongoing discussion and consultation with government by industry to ensure that commitments are met, and the impact on farmers is acknowledged and acted upon.
There is much more to be done and industry organisations will continue to work on improvements to the Basin Plan.
Monday, June 20, 2016
ADF has welcomed back well respected former CEO, John McQueen in an interim role after
the departure of Benjamin Stapley, who resigned last week.
As CEO for over 20 years, Mr McQueen stepped down in 2007 – however dairy was never far from his thoughts as a senior agriculture advisor to past Prime Ministers Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard and recently in his independent consultancy.
Prior to his time at the helm of ADF, John held the position of CEO at the Australian Dairy Herd Improvement Scheme (ADHIS). John also spent time working with ABC-TV’s Science Unit, producing, researching and directing programs such as the first three series of Towards 2000.
Mr McQueen’s significant policy expertise, strong industry relationships and political connections are a very welcome addition to the team at ADF, which
is working hard to support farmers through a period of unprecedented challenges.
Outcomes-focused, non-prescriptive is a mantra that John is proud of and will continue to be part his approach in his return to ADF.