ADF CEO Report and Policy Updates.

Much has been said in recent months and weeks around the Australian Dairy Plan. Following considerable preparation, ADF and the other partner organisations were delighted to see more than 1,000 people attend 25 workshops convened across Australia. I attended a number of these workshops and jointly facilitated the final three. It was a timely and important opportunity to hear directly from dairy farmers on what is important to you:

  • Recognising that the industry has changed substantially over the past twenty years;

  • Recognising that the cost of production has risen substantially coupled with the fact that retail prices have not tracked accordingly;

  • Recognising that industry is calling for transformational change that delivers a stronger voice around advocacy with structures that better reflect the needs of a vibrant and modern industry.

We have heard these messages and look forward to next steps, including the establishment of a Joint Transition Team. This group of people will be charged with developing options for improved structural arrangements and we are busy working with partners preparing next steps around the Dairy Plan. The process so far, and the outcomes and camaraderie that was built from the recent National Workshop, has further galvanised the desire from ADF to ensure we are doing everything possible to support dairy farmers.

As you may have read, ADF and 11 contributing processors have concluded their funding agreement which supported the operations of the Australian Dairy Industry Council. This was a significant decision and we look forward to continuing our current advocacy efforts without our independence being brought into question. All this being said, the future of the ADIC and a through-chain policy voice for the industry is paramount and we look forward to working with the processing sector to ensure this continues.

As is outlined through this update, ADF continues to engage with government and lead dairy farmers’ national advocacy efforts on a number of important fronts. Farm trespass, the Coalition’s dairy-specific election commitments, trade and market access, animal health and biosecurity, animal welfare and social license to operate as well as water policy are some of the many issues currently in play. It’s great to see that our initiative around milk labelling, including our online petition, is quickly gaining support and signatures.

Staff are busy preparing for several important meetings in Canberra to engage on a number of these and related pivotal dairy issues. It is pleasing to see our Federal parliamentary activity escalating on the back of a busy few months pre- and post the federal election.

Yours sincerely,

David Inall,
CEO, Australian Dairy Farmers

ADF recently hosted Shadow Trade Minister Madeleine King to talk about the risk of geographic indications in an Australia-European free trade agreement (FTA), including a dairy farmer round table in Gippsland and a visit to cheese manufacturer Floridia Cheese.

Policy Update

Commitments in the ADIC 2019 Election Policy Statement are progressing:

  1. ADF attended the 26th negotiating round of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership in Melbourne. This enabled the industry to convey its support for the agreement to be made by the end of the year.

  2. Submissions to the Joint Standing Committee on Trade are currently under development for the Indonesian and Hong Kong FTAs. These are due by August 23 2019.

  3. Work has commenced on developing a business case to counter the EU’s potential arguments over Geographical Indications. This will be submitted when the consultation phase is opened in the negotiation.

  4. A Terms of Reference has been drafted for a Productivity Commission Review into the Dairy Industry’s Competitiveness. ADF has commenced consultation with the federal Minister for Trade’s office on this proposal.

  5. Discussions have commenced with the Department of Energy on implementation of the $10 million Energy Efficient Grants for dairy farms. This was a flagship initiative in the $22m Dairy Support Package. It was included in the package to implement one of the three commitments in the statement designed to reduce energy cost for the dairy industry.

  6. Contact has been made with the CSIRO’s Land and Water team to initiate discussions on a proposal to develop a water supply blueprint for the nation. The purpose of this work is to develop a strong evidence-based strategic policy for securing a long-term water supply for agriculture.

This follows on from letters being sent to all relevant ministers, shadow ministers and dairy region members of parliament providing them a copy of the statement in June 2019. A copy of the statement can be accessed here.
 
On August 1 2019, ADF made submissions to the Victorian and Australian parliaments on their inquiries into farm trespass and animal activism. Progress of the inquiries, including display of all submissions lodged, can be viewed on the Victorian and Australian parliamentary websites. A copy of the Victorian submission was also provided to the Queensland Liberal Opposition Leader’s office to help drive their Bill through the Queensland Parliament, which can be viewed here.
 
On August 1 2019, Greens Senator Janet Rice introduced a motion to disallow the Gene Technology Amendment (2019 Measures No. 1) Regulations 2019. At this stage it appears that this will be voted on in the Senate on September 17 2019. ADF has developed a draft advocacy campaign and is working with the National Farmers Federation to ensure this motion is not approved.
 
On June 28  2019 letters were sent to Ministers Colbeck and McKenzie requesting specific action to remove the term ‘milk’ from plant based alternatives and restore truth in labelling. Significant media has resulted from this action, including an article in the Australia. To add weight to the argument ADF launched an online petition for supporters to sign. Please invite your friends and family to sign via https://farmers.org.au/campaign/reclaimmilk/
 
On 26 June 2019 ADF attended the national Safemeat Partners meeting in Canberra. This is a joint meeting between Australia’s livestock industry leaders and federal and state government representatives to determine policy and regulation relating to livestock biosecurity. Key decision arising from the meeting for the dairy industry included a shift to digitalising supply chain traceability e.g. National Vendor Declarations.
 
Discussion with the Department of Agriculture has confirmed the dairy code of practice and $22 million Dairy Support Package are currently subject to post election legal, policy and budget processes. Over the coming months ADF will be convening workshops and stakeholder consultations to develop project plans for these initiatives.
 
Face to face meetings have been completed for ADF’s five Policy Advisory Groups and ADIC’s Water Taskforce in mid July 2019. ADF’s representatives on the NFF Committees have been confirmed and operationalised. Other outcomes arising from these meetings will be written up into an ‘ADF Operational Plan’ for delivery in 2019-20. A draft will be sent to members of these groups for review/approval before tabling at ADF’s National Council and Board meetings in October for their review/approval.
 
ADF’s CEO and Director Strategy and Policy presented ADF’s 2018-19 achievements and priorities are the WAFarmers 2019 Dairy Conference in Busselton WA on 4 July 2019. Elements of this presentation were delivered to the Policy Advisory Groups and will form the basis of the ADF’s 2019 Annual Report.

Dairy in the media

Dairy continues to feature prominently in the media - from ADF's campaign to reclaim the term "milk" from plant-based products to our push for tougher trespass laws, and culminating in the outcomes from the two-day Dairy Plan national workshop last week.

Some of the highlights from the past month were:

ADF calls for bigger fines and the public outing of farm trespass offenders

Australia's peak dairy farmer lobby group says Victorian laws should be bolstered to protect farmers' human rights from animal activists and give police the authority to issue on-the-spot fines of up to $12,000 for farm trespass offences.

In its submission to the state government's Inquiry into the Impact of Animal Rights Activism on Victorian Agriculture, Australian Dairy Farmers (ADF) argues animal activists are causing "undue hardship to farmers".


Read more here.

The Australian Dairy Plan workshops highlight need for change

An “overwhelming” need for a new dairy industry structure is one of the key points to have come out of the recent Australian Dairy Plan workshops.

Australian Dairy Plan chairman John Brumby told The Weekly Times from the 1000 attendees at 23 workshops, “overwhelmingly contributors identified the need for industry bodies to do things differently”.

Read more here.

Processors asked to help fund Dairy Australia

Dairy processors are being asked to step up to the plate and contribute more to Dairy Australia, which is funded by a combination of farmer levies and taxpayer funds.

Peak farmer lobby group, Australian Dairy Farmers is leading the charge.

Read more here.

Funding deal ends

A dairy lobby group will no longer receive funding from processors after a three-year agreement ended on June 30.

Australian Dairy Farmers said the agreement, which had seen 11 processors contribute to funding the Australian Dairy Industry Council, would not be renewed.

Read more here.

Farmers' war on almond, soy milk

Dairy farmers are fighting the plant-based milk revolution, pushing the federal government to take steps to prevent products which are not made of dairy from being labelled “milk”.

Advocacy group Australian Dairy Farmers has written to Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie and Chair of the Ministerial Food Forum Richard Colbeck pushing to prevent non-dairy “milks” such as almond or soy milk from labelling their products as milk.

Read more here.

Coalition makes multi-million-dollar dairy industry pledge.

Peak dairy farmer group Australian Dairy Farmers (ADF) will receive $450,000 for two projects to benefit farmers as part of a $22 million funding package for the dairy industry if the Coalition wins the May election.

Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud announced a swag of funding and policy commitments today, including that ADF would receive $300,000 to develop a real time dairy payment system and supply chain information sharing capacity using blockchain technology, and $150,000 to develop with processors a simple standard form contract that incorporates requirements of the industry’s mandatory code of conduct.

ADF President Terry Richardson said the organisation supported this windfall for the dairy industry.

“It is fantastic to see a real plan for the dairy industry and delivers on a number of key imperatives that we know will assist the industry,” he said.

“The Coalition has clearly listened to the concerns of the industry and we look forward to delivering on these projects if the Coalition is returned to government.

In addition, the Coalition has pledged:

  • $10 million to support dairy farmers investing in more energy efficient equipment to reduce energy costs through more energy efficient equipment

  • $8.1 million to extend the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) agriculture unit, a significant boost to the $2.7 million outlined in the 2020 budget;

  • $3 million in grants to assist farmer groups to establish farm cooperatives and other collaborative business models;

  • $500,000 to services body Dairy Australia to continue its financial and legal advice service to farmers, and to improve legal and financial literacy for contract negotiations with processors; and

  • and a dairy industry specialist position within the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) agriculture unit;

Today’s funding announcement builds on the Coalition’s $560,000 commitment for ADF to facilitate the development of a new dairy industry trading platform, as well the implementation of a mandatory code of conduct.

Mr Richardson said the organisation was pleased with the commitment to ensure continued funding of the competition watchdog's agriculture unit.

"This is a timely and welcome announcement that will ensure the mandatory code of conduct is appropriately resourced, and the decision to appoint a dedicated dairy industry specialist within that unit is an important step in the process.”

The Coalition’s funding commitment aligns with the election platform released last week by the Australian Dairy Industry Council (ADIC) and available here.

Source: Australian Dairy Farmers

Federal Labor to introduce dairy floor price if elected.

THE Federal Opposition has given the clearest indication yet that a dairy floor price will be introduced by Labor if elected on May 18.

Re-regulation of the sector was floated as an option by Opposition Leader Bill Shorten earlier this year, committing to improve conditions for dairy farmers if Labor won Government.

Shadow Agriculture Minister Joel Fitzgibbon last week said structural problems in the dairy sector “could not be overcome without government intervention.”

“You can somewhat rebalance the market power between processors and dairy farmers, but dairy farmers will be made price takers,” the Labor frontbencher said.

“So I formed a view that the only way you really help dairy farmers is to set a minimum farmgate milk price. Not a ceiling but a floor price.

It means you would have an entity, possibly the ACCC, determine what is the average price of production in each dairy region, because every dairy region is very different. And having determined that average price, set a minimum price somewhere just above the cost of production.”

United Dairyfarmers of Victoria president Paul Mumford said the organisation welcomed either a Labor or Coalition government working to improve the fortunes of the dairy sector over the next three years.

“Whether a floor price is the right solution, we wait to see, but Joel Fitzgibbon said he would work with the ACCC to evaluate the situation,” Mr Mumford said.

The Australian Dairy Industry Council approached the Howard government in 1999 to deregulate the drinking milk sector.

All state governments then repealed legislation governing milk prices, with state-based milk authorities wound up by July 2000.

The move had a mixed result for farmers nationally, with Murray Goulburn and Bonlac offering higher farmgate prices in Victoria and Tasmania in 2000-01 but a marked decrease for NSW and Queensland producers during the same 12-month period.

Mr Fitzgibbon was asked by The Weekly Times how an Australian floor price would operate in competition with imported produce from New Zealand.

“If we are arguing that the only way to be internationally competitive on export markets is to pay our farmers at or below the cost of production, then we’ve lost the argument,” the NSW MP said.

“If we’ve got to underpay our farmers to be internationally competitive, it’s a market we shouldn’t be in, quite frankly. But that’s not the outcome we want. Of course, we want to be in the market, we want Australians drinking milk produced here in Australia and other dairy products. They are literally facing a crisis at the moment, particularly in areas like northern Victoria. If we don’t have government intervention, we will lose our dairy industry.”

Source: Weekly Times