An often-quoted truism is that trust is earned not given.
The failures of the individuals and organisations whose roles exist to lead the dairy industry mean that our farmers find it hard to trust them on faith alone to develop a Plan that will see a sustainable future for the Australian dairy industry.
Key to a successful merger or, as is required in the dairy industry, a major transformation, is communication. As human beings, we are naturally nervous about change since with it comes uncertainty and insecurity. Given the scepticism surrounding the Plan, murmured assurances that everything is OK is not enough to woo farmers into submission.
Since the Dairy Plan Committee was formed and the consultation process concluded, there has been little communication of the Plan’s progress. Is it still on track to be delivered? Are the farmer's core priorities – restructuring, ensuring a sustainable farmgate price and marketing dairy still the cornerstones of the Plan?
It would be fair to say that there has been a lot of criticism about how the Dairy Plan is being developed. I would not be alone in saying that phrases like “it’s off the rails”, “it’s a train wreck” and “it’s fracturing the industry” are being said too often and by too many individuals to ignore.
The Dairy Plan's every element and process was always going to be heavily scrutinised and criticised.
To be fair, it is difficult to determine what information it is appropriate to share during the early stages of the planning process. But the more the Dairy Plan Committee tries to reassure the industry without evidence of progress, the more individuals will doubt.
We need those who have appointed themselves as leaders of our industry's future to communicate openly and transparently. Allowing the speculation to continue causes more dissent in an already fractured industry.
Sarah Ferguson – QDO Communications Manager.