Code of conduct update from ADF

For the past 12 months or so the industry has found itself debating the virtues or otherwise of codes of practice for the dairy industry. In particular, how can we best provide assistance to dairy farmers so that there are options available to them if they have a complaint?

Throughout this time, ADF has been criticised by some for not supporting a mandatory code, especially in the context of an extremely difficult few years that have affected farmers. And to add to this conversation, there are options available in the sense that there is a mandatory code, a prescribed voluntary code or the current industry code. 

It is important to note that prior to July 2017 there was no industry code - voluntary or otherwise. While the success of the industry’s code is for others to judge, where it has succeeded is by opening the conversation around the need for clear, fair contractual arrangements between farmers and processors. This was an important first step as we navigate through the ACCC recommendations while at the same time working to develop a stronger industry code, a code with ‘teeth’ that has binding penalties for non-compliance.
 
This next step is critically important for both industry and government. Will an industry code be able to properly assess complaints? Will penalties for non-compliance be binding? We understand that a mandatory code will take approximately 15-18 months (with a federal election somewhere in between) to deliver. If this is the final decision, what happens between now and then? If complaints are relatively minor, will the ACCC investigate those complaints under a mandatory code?
 
This is a decision that will change the face of dairying for years to come, if not forever. The analysis undertaken so far has been an extraordinarily complex piece of work, and we assure you that we absolutely have the best interest of farmers at heart. While the current code was a timely start, we must do better. Rest assured that whatever the form of the next version of the code, it will include a process for dispute resolution with penalties for non-compliance.
 
In the next edition of the Informer we will outline the differences between each code and the importance of timing as it relates to next season’s opening prices.

David Inall