When Australian Dairy Farmers held its first recorded meeting more than 78 years ago in 1942, it was agreed that the organisation should have one primary function: to support the well-being of dairy farmers.
Sure, we go to Canberra and advocate for policy reform to make lives easier for dairy farmers.
This is all vital work. But ADF is, at its heart, a people organisation.
We are, by definition, a support group that, yes, develops, communicates and advocates sound policy.
But let us never lose sight of the human element to this great industry and in your organisation.
We don't build bridges.
We don't build roads.
We don't climb mountains.
We don't make large capital expenditure investments like you all do as you manage your farms in an ever-changing and complex business environment.
We work with, and rely on, people.
Yes, we are in the dairy cattle business. But we are also, clearly and unashamedly, in the people business.
Let us never lose sight of the fact that we work with, and rely on, people.
- Australian Dairy Plan sets ambitious farm profitability target
- Time to talk about reforming culture in the dairy industry
So, what does all of this mean?
ADF has, over the past 18 months, focused on completing the Australian Dairy Plan.
Emerging from this plan was the clear message from farmers that the current structure was no longer fit-for-purpose and was not setting us up for future success. We agree.
Looking ahead, we are acutely aware that the structural reform conversation is complex, it is steeped in history, but it can be divisive.
There is a reason why 'reforming industry structures' is commitment one in the Australian Dairy Plan.
Let us not for a moment lose sight of the challenge, and opportunity, that lies ahead.
Other industries have attempted, unsuccessfully, such reform.
We have a marvellous opportunity to guide this process to a destination that delivers an outcome that will better serve this generation and the next.
But such an outcome relies on people. Where we can, let us avoid distractions.
Let us avoid focusing on those issues that don't matter so much.
Everybody's views will be important. And all of us will have to compromise something.
Let us not be distracted by the small issues, rather let's all lean into this project with a clear vision and respect for everybody's views.
We know there will be difficult conversations ahead. We know that we won't always agree, and that's okay.
But the prize of building a future-proofed, agile, inclusive structure is well-worth the difficult conversations that lie ahead.
On the policy and advocacy front, there are two active inquiries: the Senate inquiry into the performance of the dairy industry as well as Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) Perishable Goods Inquiry, both of which will require an ADF response.
The Dairy Industry Code of Conduct, which came into force on January 1, 2020, is now due for a 12-month review, which will be carried out in 2021.
There are also several active free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations underway.
ADF will continue to advocate for changes to the labelling of plant-based products.
We are in active discussions around potential regulatory approaches to labelling of plant-based beverages.
We recently participated in a roundtable meeting hosted by federal agriculture minister David Littleproud to discuss issues with plant-based labelling.
ADF is also now part of a government working group to develop solutions to make plant-based labelling clearer for consumers.
This is just a snapshot of the priorities for our small team throughout 2021.
I would like to re-emphasise how important people are to our dairy industry.
To some extent, we are all in the people business, whether we like it or not.
People are the engine room of this industry, and certainly the engine room of this organisation.
The small stuff doesn't matter so much. The conversations matter.
Respectful yet differing opinions matter. And certainly, focusing on the prize matters.
Some 45,000 people in Australia work in this industry.
And of those of 45,000, only five (including one part-time employee) work at ADF, your national representative organisation.
Luckily, we now have a stabilised ADF team that is looking to new opportunities as we tackle existing and new challenges into the future.
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