With senators Glenn Sterle (chair), Susan MacDonald and Pauline Hanson in attendance, the senate inquiry into the performance of Australia's dairy industry hearing in Brisbane was a fantastic opportunity for many northern dairy farmers and representatives to have their say on the past and current problems we face as well to provide practical suggestions for future solutions.
The topics raised were varied and covered a number of key areas such as the Code of Conduct, dual supply contracts, loss leader and retailer national pricing, a cost of production index (CPI) to set a sustainable and fair farmgate price, supporting local brands that pay a fair price to farmers, involve the ACCC, additional levy on milk at retail level, re-regulation, the use and effectiveness of the compulsory dairy levy on RDE and the slow progress of industry restructure.
Being given the opportunity to hear all speakers from all organisations listening for the whole day to then present as the last speaker was frustrating to say the least. I knew all of the speakers.
We have all talked about the same issues and they have been raised many times before. So unfortunately, no surprises and I'd say no real breakthroughs.
You will be able to look online soon enough and make your own judgment, but my key take-outs were:
- All of the proposals put forward by farmers, industry and the senators have some merit if they could be enacted, but none will get up while we have a divided industry.
- The ridiculous situation of three advocacy bodies and three RDE organisations across Queensland and NSW must end.
- Unity with input from grassroots farmers will allow us to be more effective in advocacy to government, processors and consumers. It would also ensure better priority setting and implementation of extension and practice change on farm.
If grassroots farmers, industry representatives and government want to stop the endless line of inquiries and get our industry moving again the message is clear:
Support an industry restructure that can bring unity. Set up a single entity that has regional and democratically elected representation and ensure that the funding model allows for the good proposals mentioned above actually be achieved.
Ultimately, we are all after the same thing. Let's leave the egos and self-promotion behind and get it done.