Dairy’s watershed year

ADF president Terry Richardson says sale of Murray Goulburn watershed for Australian dairy industry


Agribusiness
CODE OF PRACTICE: Australian Dairy Farmers president Terry Richardson says work it led through the ADIC on the proposed Code of Practice is being used by the government in its farmer consultations.

CODE OF PRACTICE: Australian Dairy Farmers president Terry Richardson says work it led through the ADIC on the proposed Code of Practice is being used by the government in its farmer consultations.

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Australian Dairy Farmers president Terry Richardson says 2018 a watershed year for Australian dairy industry with sale of Murray Goulburn meaning farmers need to find their voice through industry organisations.

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It has been a big year for the dairy industry and Australian Dairy Farmers – sometimes difficult, but often rewarding. 

I want to reflect, in the final Dairy Insight for 2018, on some of the significant moments from the past year.

The industry lost Murray Goulburn, which for nearly 70 years has been a bedrock of the Australian dairy industry – our biggest farmer co-op and our largest dairy processor.

The sale of Murray Goulburn to Canadian dairy company Saputo has no doubt changed the dairy landscape forever and the industry is still coming to terms with this event.

ADF led an industry discussion on the code of practice. Working under the auspices of the Australian Dairy Industry Council, we reviewed the voluntary code of practice and, through consultations with our state dairy farmer members, developed draft clauses to be incorporated into a new code of practice being implemented by the federal government.

The government is now using the ADIC work as a foundation to engage farmers in consultations around what they want in a mandatory code of practice.

We called for a change to the federal government’s skilled worker visa system. 

We told the government that the job of dairy farmer needs to be upgraded from an unskilled occupation to skilled. 

We argued visa systems should provide skilled workers with access to longer visa period and a pathway for permanent residency.

This is important because the industry is losing too much money – up to $364 million per year – due to labour shortages. 

The dairy industry employs more than 40,000, but we will continue to suffer if we can’t gain access to skilled labour.

The sale of Murray Goulburn to Canadian dairy company Saputo has no doubt changed the dairy landscape forever and the industry is still coming to terms with this event. - Terry Richardson

This year we pushed for the Murray-Darling Basin Plan to include a socio-economic test that is fair for all. 

Dairy communities cannot tolerate further job losses or having to pay increased temporary water costs due to less water being available. We advocated for a test that will deliver neutral or positive benefits for basin communities.

We have also maintained an active policy focus on key areas such as animal welfare, trade and market access, biosecurity, and social licence.

But despite the achievements of this year, there is still much work to be done. 

This has been a watershed year for the dairy industry. 

I also want to highlight some of our priorities going forward.

Collaboration is vital between ADF, the state dairy farmer organisations, our industry services body Dairy Australia, and indeed across whole dairy value network.

With the departure of our major co-operative, the role of industry leadership falls fairly and squarely with farmers through their representative and service bodies.

There is no institution to provide weight to the farmers’ voice. That will only come with farmers speaking as one.

We are not in competition with one another at the farmgate, and there can be no reason to depart from the original purpose of ADF “to promote the interests of the dairy farmers of the Commonwealth in all matters affecting them”.

BASIN PLAN: This year ADF pushed for the Murray-Darling Basin Plan to include a socio-economic test that is fair for all farmers.

BASIN PLAN: This year ADF pushed for the Murray-Darling Basin Plan to include a socio-economic test that is fair for all farmers.

To do this requires we engage in the painstaking work of building consensus. 

There will always be gaps and ambiguities, but is our greatest advantage in acting alone or together in the long-term interest of the industry?

We also need to seriously consider greater investment in leadership opportunities. 

We must have open and honest discussions about the future of dairy advocacy.

Farmers should have greater ownership over the achievements and opportunities in the industry, and we need to develop opportunities to engage the next generation and harness their passion.

Looking ahead, it is important to keep in mind that while we are an industry that has been under intense pressure, we are also an industry that has the know-how and resilience to overcome adversity and thrive in the long term.

Related reading

The story Dairy’s watershed year first appeared on Farm Online.

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