New direction for ACCC needed if going to help Queensland dairy farmers

By QDO President Brian Tessamann

The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) Interim Report into the dairy industry, released in November last year, powerfully detailed how the dairy market has failed by highlighting many of the problems in the industry, however it failed to offer sufficient solutions to solve these problems.

As the market currently stands, Queensland dairy farmers lack suitable power when it comes to negotiating prices and terms dictated to them by processors in response to retailer pressures. In turn, processors too have had their returns slashed as a result of $1/litre milk and the market power imbalance.

 

In its Interim Report, the ACCC correctly identified the solution was not as simple as merely increasing retail prices because they won’t be passed onto farmers and increasing profits will only benefit retailers and/or processors. However the report failed to offer any other remedy.

To date, voluntary codes and other solutions have failed to rectify this market failure. These codes need to be made mandatory or strengthened at the very minimum. Introducing a mandatory code of conduct for retailers with clear anti-competitive and farm gate pricing provisions will go a long way in addressing the current market failure.

The final report must include recommendations so dairy farmers can be confident the flawed market can and will be fixed. Anything less guarantees the continuation of farm failures and emboldens the misguided campaign for industry re-regulation.

QDO is calling on the ACCC to use its powers and mandate to strengthen the final report by committing to a code with teeth for the whole supply chain. The government too has a responsibility to ensure the ACCC delivers upon the political and practical issues within the dairy industry that led to this investigation in the first place.

Fair milk price campaign delivering results

By QDO Vice-President Matthew Trace

Queensland Dairyfarmers’ Organisation (QDO) continues to fight on many fronts in the long term battle for an increase to farm gate milk prices. As well as being the number one issue and priority for our membership, it continues to be our industry’s most difficult to deliver upon. 

The need for a competitive yet fair market that accurately and proportionately values our milk is key to realising a better deal for our farmer members. The hard fought campaign against retailers dictating the value of milk has been difficult but not ineffective as some may suggest. QDO has tirelessly lobbied consumers, processors, retailers and government to gain recognition of our members’ plight.  While we are not done, we are making progress. 

A few years back Queensland Woolworths took the step of contracting direct supply for their own brand ‘Farmers Own’. By all accounts these direct suppliers to Woolworths are receiving a fair price for their product. Yes, the criticism was that initially only one farmer received a better price for their milk, but this has now increased to four farmers.  Imagine the benefits if this was able to be grown to twenty, thirty farmers or more?

After the social media storm backing branded products there was a surge in support for branded milk and also for smaller processors and their local suppliers. The additional sales resulted in Maleny Dairies taking on an additional supplier to meet demand.  We are proud of the contribution smaller processors are making to our industry and just want them to keep on growing.  Maleny Dairies, Maleny Cheese, Scenic Rim 4Real Milk, Mungalli Creek Dairy, Barambah Organics, Cooloola Milk, Kenilworth Dairies and now Central Queensland /Whitsunday Dairy Fresh are just some of those helping to driving an increase of competition for Queensland milk.

Increased competition is good for our members and overtime will improve farm gate milk price.  Without the continuation of this sustained lobbying effort by QDO I don’t believe we would have gained the community support so far that has driven these positive changes to our industry.

Feed costs add to farm pressures

By QDO President Brian Tessmann

As Australian dairy farmers struggle to get an improved and fairer farm gate milk price from the failing domestic milk market, we must endeavour to ensure markets work to keep input costs down also. While QDO battles to keep electricity, water and red tape costs down, we should not forget feed costs are usually the major dairy input.

In times of drought, when the first loads of grain come in from South Australia, the price of grain in Queensland skyrockets to meet a very high-landed price. In better times however, when fodder such as hay in the south is plentiful, landed prices can be cheaper than prices many pay locally. As the old saying goes, you have to ‘shop around’. While there is information and monthly reports available to help inform farmers of market levels, if they are not shopping around then this information is falling on deaf ears. The effect of high and low grain and fodder prices on dairy profit can be dramatic and sometimes hurts more than an actual lack of fodder due to drought.

But it is not only in drought when feed costs have an impact. When Lion Dairy and Drinks gave first priority to its milk suppliers in obtaining brewers’ grain and subsequent reduction in price (amounting to around $25 per tonne), it was a significant saving for suppliers who were within an hour or so of travelling distance from the brewery. Farmers in the area, who were able to change processors, shifted in order to take advantage of savings that were worth several cents per litre. Cows can be fussy eaters sometimes and farmers may tend to stick to a known commodity but they should remember to check the competition. Currently southern hay prices may be worth checking out, but whatever the season it’s always wise to shop around.

Queensland’s dairy industry needs a shakeup

By QDO Vice-President Matthew Trace

Let’s be clear from the start, I believe the Queensland dairy industry needs a shakeup.  Not change just for the sake of it, but rather through a calculated approach with clear aims, actions and results.  Queensland dairy farmers are calling for Queensland Dairyfarmers’ Organisation (QDO) to advocate and implement programs and pursue a policy agenda that has direct hip pocket outcomes for farmers.  As the newly elected QDO Vice-President I intend to bring enthusiasm and resolve to deliver the results that directly improve our members’ bottom lines.

A critical issue the dairy industry faces is farm finance and succession planning.  My own recent experience in seeking finance to purchase a farm as well as my involvement as a QDO representative in the Young Dairy Network has shown me these issues are not isolated, but rather sector-wide. The financial obstacles faced by those wanting to enter or grow a dairy business in Queensland are currently insurmountable for our industry’s next generation. 

The problem is three fold: young farmers are unable to establish their own business; those looking to exit the industry have limited options to sell and lease; and expansion is tough enough without unaffordable finance issues.

Recently QDO has secured funding to run a program that will start to address this issue. The Queensland Government has provided QDO with funding based on a need to build greater resilience in our industry post-Cyclone Debbie.  Resilience on farm will be improved through better financial planning, farm succession and improved infrastructure to mitigate the risk of losses from severe weather events.   

For our members, this will mean a pilot program with an extension officer starting in Scenic Rim and Lockyer Valley regions, followed by a wider rollout after testing is complete and funding is secured. The program will mean direct action and on-the-ground support for dairy farmers to gain better access to finance that will help our industry grow sustainably into the future.

New look QDO

By QDO President Brian Tessmann

Last week the Queensland Dairyfarmers’ Organisation (QDO) saw a change in its leadership team with the election of Sunshine Coast Hinterland farmer Matthew Trace as Vice-President, joining me as our re-elected President. The elections took place at the first State Council meeting of 2018 which included a new smaller five-person Board that was implemented after an extensive membership restructure.

On behalf of QDO’s members, I welcome Matthew Trace to the important position of Vice-President. Matt brings a wealth of industry knowledge and passion to the role of QDO State Councillor, representing dairy farmers in Moreton & Gympie regions.

Matt was first elected to the QDO board in 2015. He has been an active State Councillor throughout his first term and is the youngest QDO Vice-President in many decades.

This change in leadership has and will continue to necessitate much-needed membership-driven change. With fresh faces on a number of the industry’s committees, we can expect new and innovative ideas, programs and activities to come to fruition.

On behalf of our membership and industry, I want to thank outgoing Vice-President Ross McInnes for his service to date to furthering dairy in Queensland. While Ross will remain a valuable QDO State Councillor, representing Scenic Rim and Lockyer Valley farmers, it is important to recognise his incredible contribution as our former Vice-President. The eight and half years since 2009 have been some of the most turbulent and difficult in the industry’s history and we are in a better place because of Ross’ contribution and leadership.

The new Board will strive to continue delivering effective industry advocacy and services for our members that all farmers deserve and expect. The Board has a clear objective to increase skills and industry awareness among both our district councillors and any younger members who have a desire to represent the dairy industry on the State Council in the future.

Vale Lady Florence

By QDO President Brian Tessmann

Last Thursday, the 4th of January, Queensland remembered the passing of Lady Florence Bjelke-Petersen by celebrating the life of a great advocate for both Queensland and rural Australia. The crowd at her funeral spilled out of the Kingaroy Town Hall into the forecourt and all the way to the footpath. Throughout the ceremony and afterwards people were remembering and sharing the positive, uplifting and humorous stories about the woman they called ‘Lady Flo’.

I shared a number of these stories myself, but to me her name was always Florence not Flo as that was what my Mother and Father always called her. My recollections of her started from when I was a child in the late 1960s with Florence occasionally coming over from her North-West-facing farm over to our side of the hill to watch news reports about her husband on a Brisbane station she couldn’t pick up at her place. Since then I, like many in the South Burnett, have lost count of how many important occasions, opening ceremonies and award presentations she would have addressed. Along the way she presented high-school junior/grade 10 certificates to two generations of my family and always remembered the high achievements of the region’s students. It did seem Florence was everywhere from being a part of the Lutheran church and local community, to being with Joh at State events, and to her very significant role as a senator at a national level.

While she did not grow up on a farm she spent most of her life on one and understood the struggles Queensland farmers faced. It was this understanding and appreciation of what farmers did and their way of life that made her such a fierce and effective advocate for our industry. While Queensland is poorer for her passing, we stop and take time to consider how blessed we all have been for having her as part of our state’s great story.

Old year out, in with the new

By QDO President Brian Tessmann

With 2018 now upon us the Queensland Dairyfarmers’ Organisation (QDO) has taken the time to take stock of the year that was 2017 and how it will affect the 12 months ahead.

Last year began with the national dairy industry still reeling from farm gate milk price drops in the southern dairy regions. Domestic and international milk prices left dairy goliath Murray Goulburn facing well-publicised financial difficulties which hurt the entire industry. Since then however, international dairy prices have improved. The price increases in butter fat in particular have led an upward trend in the southern farm gate price.

With Murray Goulburn’s troubles playing out throughout 2017, Canadian dairy giant Saputo, who already owns Warrnambool Cheese & Butter, received the regulator’s final tick of approval to purchase Australia’s largest milk processor. If nothing else, this will positively change the current market dynamic, offering renewed management and competition.

QDO continued to battle on behalf of members surrounding ongoing inequities affecting the Australian domestic market. It was disappointing to see the Fair Milk Mark Bill proposed by the Katter’s Australia Party defeated in State Parliament but the State Labor Government’s promise to help and resource QDO to build such a Logo was warmly welcomed.

Thanks to some additional pressure from people such as Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, we finally saw some national changes including the establishment of an ACCC inquiry into issues in the Australian dairy market. Unfortunately, the preliminary report was disappointing since while it acknowledged that farmers lacked bargaining power and carried the majority of risk, it failed to offer any recommendations for farmers to address the existing power imbalances. So far the ACCC process has shown that politicians need to intervene to ensure the inquiry delivers upon the political aspirations they outlined when they first established it.

The ACCC dairy inquiry as well as many other issues affecting the Queensland dairy industry will be top priorities for the newly elected five-member QDO Board that commence their work in mid-January.

72 per cent of Queensland dairy farmers attend Biosecurity workshops

By QDO President Brian Tessmann

The Queensland Dairyfarmers’ Organisation (QDO) has held the last of its successful and well-attended biosecurity workshops in Beaudesert in early December 2017. In total, QDO hosted 16 workshops across all Queensland dairy farming regions from Malanda to Beaudesert.

Seventy-two per cent of all QDO members attended the workshops which proved an incredible need and desire for industry to properly address on-farm biosecurity practices. An astonishing 98% of QDO members attended the workshops on the Tablelands in Malanda and Millaa Millaa. A big thank you goes out to QDO North Queensland Councillor James Geraghty as well as Tom Hamilton, Glen Drury, Des Trevor and Bob Kelso for making sure their regions’ farmers were up to speed with their biosecurity obligations.

While most farmers are not the greatest fans of paperwork and meetings, a clear majority of those who attended the workshops gained a better appreciation of their biosecurity obligations. Each participant left with a clear list of on-farm activities to undertake to better manage biosecurity risks.

QDO would like to express its gratitude to the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF), specifically Lawrence Gavey and his team of local vets and stock inspectors, for helping to organise and deliver the workshops. Without their assistance and expertise, the workshops would not have been possible.

Most importantly, the workshops created mutually beneficially relationships by linking dairy farmers to local DAF staff. These connections are in the interest of all parties to manage and continue fostering a productive dairy industry in the state. The workshops were a great example of industry and government working constructively together for the benefit of both farmers and the dairy community as a whole.

QDO intends to hold a webinar in January 2018 to assist members who missed out on attending a workshop. Farmers interested are encouraged to contact the QDO office.

The next biosecurity issue for dairy farmers to address will be providing slurry tests for Bovine Johnes Disease (BJD). In early 2018, QDO will be contacting members to see what service should be undertaken to benefit their farm practices.

New five member QDO board elected

By QDO President Brian Tessmann

The usually jolly Christmas time news has been full of elections and the Queensland dairy industry is no exception. Not unlike the recent Queensland State Election, the Queensland Dairyfarmers’ Organisation (QDO) elections went down to the wire. They were triggered by recent constitutional changes made at this year’s AGM, which resulted in the decision to cut QDO’s State Council from eight directors to five by amalgamating districts. Within these five districts, nine zones were identified to reflect the realistic serviceability of each region. The only district to remain unchained was North Queensland which is also the only district at this stage with only one zone.

Many new district councillors were nominated and elected, however we still have some vacancies in the Burnett/Central and Gympie/Morton districts.

I would like to congratulate Ross McInnes who got his nose in front in the Lockyer and Scenic Rim region and Brendan Hayden who was successful in the Darling Downs. I would also like to thank Gary Wenzel and John Saville for accepting nominations for Board and for their interest in the future of QDO.

On behalf of QDO members, I express our gratitude to John for his service as both a Director and an advocate for the industry. John has represented QDO on many occasions and has been a fixture at Board meetings since he replaced Lindsey Volz as State Councillor around a decade ago. Ross McInnes and Brendan Hayden join James Geraghty, Mathew Trace and I on the new QDO State Council for the next three years.

Queensland dairy farmers will be working hard over Christmas and New Year to deliver a quality product we all enjoy this festive season. I encourage all Queenslanders to stock up on lots of great locally-made dairy products as part of their celebrations and wish all QDO members a merry Christmas and a prosperous new year.

Dairy industry’s image important

By QDO President Brian Tessmann

While the dairy industry spends considerable time and effort ensuring we look after the health and welfare of our animals using scientifically justified practices, we should always remain vigilant of how the public sees our processes.

It is time to accept that if radical groups can gain or arrange a vision of an unpleasant on-farm practice, they will. Because of this, many farmers are rightfully frustrated with the apparent lack of equal legal protections available to them. If someone trespassed onto the property of an activist and searched though their property, as well as recorded their daily rituals, the law would take stern and swift action.

Most animal activists see any animal farming as an affront to their sensibilities which puts farmers at risk of being attacked in a tirade of anti-farming propaganda. This is why it’s so important that farmers take suitable precautions and consider first and foremost their on-farm practices. It is essential that we walk in our city-based consumers shoes and consider how best practice would be perceived.

Information resources are available to help dairy farmers stay abreast of current animal management practices. Farmers need to investigate and implement suitable practices for their operation to ensure all animals are as healthy and free from pain and suffering as realistically possible. This should be considered under a critical guise with focus on the management of animals from Downer cows through to bobby calves.

With Queensland having a year-round calving cycle, issues around bobby calves should be limited. However, selective filming will always misrepresent any situation to make it look bad. The major issue for farmers will be that scientifically proven practices may sometimes fail in the court of public perception. As an industry we have some way to go in reassuring the general public of our processes, especially in a world where perception is often greater than truth.

ACCC disappoints dairy

By QDO President Brian Tessmann

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) Dairy Inquiry interim Report, released last week, not only disappointed Queensland dairy farmers but failed to deliver clear direction and intent to fix the mess destroying Queensland and Australian dairy farms.

It is strange that while the report acknowledges many of the major market issues affecting our industry, it offers precious little in the way of recommendations to fix them. These issues include the fact dairy farmers have little to no market or bargaining power, and carry a disproportionate and overwhelming burden of risk in the value chain.

In fact, the ACCC tries to use this issue to distract attention from the damage caused to the industry by $1 per litre milk. The ACCC report claims that because farmers have barely any market power now, they would receive little benefit if supermarkets ended $1 milk since supermarkets and processors would pocket the revenue. This completely ignores what the Inquiry was set up to do in the first place, which was to fix the whole value chain to allow benefits to flow to the farm gate. It also ignores the $200 million ripped annually from the dairy value chain by supermarket discounting and generally avoids recognising the crippling market failure stemming from the supermarket duopoly.

While QDO supports the report’s only recommendation to change the recently introduced farm gate code of conduct into a mandatory code, it should have been obvious the industry needs far more than this to create a fair and functioning market.

It is becoming clear the ACCC does not have the general intent, operating scope or legislative tools to fix what should be a very fixable issue. So while QDO is willing as always to work with the ACCC with whatever meagre assistance is given, it is time for politicians who support a fair go for Queensland dairy farmers to deliver on the clear political promises and community expectations the Inquiry was originally set up to fulfil.

Dairy AGM’s and board appointments

By QDO President Brian Tessmann

In the Dairy Industry, late November is always a busy time of Annual General Meetings (AGMs) and an election or two, especially this year with Queensland’s State election raging. Last week saw both Dairy Australia (DA) and Australian Dairy Farmers (ADF) hold their AGM’s in Melbourne with both electing two new directors. Of particular note was the retirement of DA Chair Geoff Akers from the Board. Geoff was appointed to the Board in 2005 and became the third-ever chair in 2013. QDO thanks Geoff for his work for Dairy Australia.

The ADF AGM saw the retirement of Tyran Jones and independent director DeDee Woodside from the ADF board, whom were  replaced by John Versteden and Victoria Taylor respectively. In his address, ADF President Terry Richardson welcomed new CEO David Inall to the organisation and thanked interim CEO John McQueen for his assistance through a difficult time. The theme of the industry breakfast at Flemington last Friday was innovating and adapting to change, particularly in relation to industry organisations and structures. Attendees were urged to look at the effectiveness of their respective industry organisations whether they were service, advocacy or commercial providers. They were also asked to consider what might be the right structure for these objectives, opportunities and challenges. It was an important reminder that no structure or organisation is sacred. They must either deliver for dairy farmers or evolve into something that will.

On the other big election, QDO congratulate Premier Annastacia Palaszazuk on what looks like a Queensland Labor parliamentary majority. QDO look forward to working with the re-elected Labor government over the next term to improve the lot for the state’s dairy farmers. In particular, QDO look forward to continuing its constructive work with the Labor Government to deliver the industry led ‘Fair Mark Milk Logo’ for consumers.

2018 pricing locked in and looking up

By QDO President Brian Tessmann

For many Queensland dairy farmers, this year’s pricing signals are much clearer than they were last year. This comes in light of Parmalat Australia’s joint announcement with the collective bargaining group Premium Milk last week of stable pricing for next year except that the seasonal incentive payment for July 2018 will be halved from two cents to one cent per litre. The announcement follows only a few months after the 2017 pricing was finally settled by an arbitrator at what amounted to a year-round reduction of just over 0.8 cents per litre.

While Queensland Dairyfarmers’ Organisation (QDO) and its members find any price reductions disappointing, the drop does reflect price reduction in the domestic market during this period, including with Lion’s Queensland suppliers and many of Parmalat’s suppliers in southern states. At least now local Parmalat suppliers, who collectively account for over half the state’s dairy farmers, know full well what to expect in next year’s pricing negotiations and can make business management decisions accordingly.

There was better news for Norco suppliers following the co-operatives AGM in Toowoomba last week. Chairman Greg McNamara reported that Norco had achieved a net profit of $1.122 million while managing to increase the average member return by 0.12 cents per litre. He noted much of this stemmed from an increase of 2.7% in total sales and an increase of 34.6% in Norco’s branded milk sales. QDO believes at least some of that increase in branded sales has derived from QDO’s industry leading ‘I buy branded milk’ campaign. Mr McNamara also welcomed new CEO Ben White to the co-operative.

With some good news on the international dairy market, particularly around the value of milk fat and possibly the settling of Murray Goulburn’s troubles, farmers should have every right to feel more hopeful that next year will see a rise in domestic milk prices.

When it rains, it pours

By QDO President Brian Tessmann

After experiencing a very dry August and September, the significant rainfall over South and Central Queensland has been a welcome change. As is often the case with weather, however, you can get too much of a good thing, which is the current sentiment of many dairy farmers.

The recent rainfall in the North Burnett and Wide Bay regions delivered severe flooding, not only inflicting structural damage but also leaving dairy farms with a critical feed shortage situation. QDO has been active in supporting its members and the State Government has agreed to activate Category B assistance for primary producers in the North Burnett, Bundaberg and Gladstone Regions. This assistance entitles farmers access to 50 per cent freight subsidy which can be used to fix fences as well as moving fodder.  Access to concessional loans of 1.16% for recovery are also available to affected farmers. More information is available at Queensland Rural and Industry Development Authority’s (QRIDA) website: www.qrida.qld.gov.au

Farmers in Category B regions can also access freight subsidies of up to 50% for brought-in grain and fodder. More information can be found on the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) website: https://www.daf.qld.gov.au/

QDO will continue to advocate for Category C assistance for its members in North Burnett and Wide Bay. These applications are being progressed as Government waits to determine the cumulative damage from each region. QDO in conjunction with Queensland Farmers’ Federation (QFF) is gathering damage estimates to assist DAF with this process.

Over most areas of Queensland, the rain has significantly increased this season’s potential, particularly when compared to the dry heat of last summer. It is important, however, that Government also helps farmers who have weathered through a run of floods and suffered damage to their infrastructure and feed supply, so they can continue to produce milk and stay in the industry.

 

Drop electricity prices or help farmers use less

By QDO President, Brian Tessmann

Despite another week of energy policy posturing, Australia’s climate and energy strategy is getting little traction and remains under pressure from powerful coal interests. There seems to be an attempt from both sides of politics to confuse consumers as to the real cause of higher power prices.

Both politicians and the media appear complicit in continually discussing power generation issues by making wild claims about future blackouts. All the while smoke-screening the real causes of energy price increases that have nothing to do with whether the power is sourced from renewable or coal technologies. Electricity distribution costs, overvaluing distribution assets, retail profit and government financial return on asset expectations are the main reasons behind the ‘energy crisis’ gripping the nation.

Put simply, most renewables can match dirty coal for generation costs. So called clean coal technologies, if ever successful, will likely be more expensive. But generation costs are not the real problem.

The question most rural and regional advocacy groups have been asking for years now is how post-generation costs can be lowered to reduce the strain on farmers and their businesses. It seems clear the Federal and State Governments have no interest in addressing this issue no matter what options are put to them. The result has led to more consumers, including proactive farmers, looking to generate their own renewable power, with some considering in-party or going off the grid entirely. However, the major concern is that as consumers go off-grid, costs for those who remain will increase. This is an untenable situation for farmers who are already dealing with unsustainable prices.

The fact is all dairy farmers use energy for milking and cooling milk. Many also use it to power their substantial irrigation infrastructure. For our local dairy industry to remain internationally competitive, the cost of this energy has to be slashed. To save our dairy industry’s viability, the State and Federal Governments must fund programs that assist farmers to implement on-farm efficiencies or create their own renewable generation.

QDO biosecurity workshops a major success

By QDO President, Brian Tessmann

QDO held the last of its biosecurity workshops in Malanda last week. In total, QDO ran 13 workshops across all dairy farming regions of Queensland from the Tablelands through to Beaudesert. Almost 60 per cent of QDO members attended the meetings which was a great effort from participants. An astonishing 91pc of members attended the workshops in the north in Malanda and Millaa Millaa, which is an astounding number, especially when 84pc of all dairy farmers in the north are QDO members.

While most farm businesses are not big fans of paperwork and meetings, most farmers who attended the workshops gained a much better appreciation of biosecurity. Most participants decided on clear activities to undertake on their farms which will be valuable to them in managing biosecurity risks.

I would like to thank all those people who help make these workshops happen. A special thanks to QDAF and specifically Lawrence Gavey and his team of local vets and stock inspectors for helping to organise and deliver the workshops. Without their assistance and expertise, these events would not have been possible. They created better links between dairy farmers and local Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (QDAF) staff which is very helpful. It is great to see QDO and QDAF working in partnership to assist farmers to adjust their practices to meet their biosecurity obligations.

At this stage, QDO does not intend to run additional workshops. However, if there are QDO members who have missed out on attending, please contact QDO and we can try to organise further meetings if there is sufficient demand. Alternatively, QDO may be able to assist farmers develop biosecurity plans outside of a workshop.

The next step in the process for dairy farmers with biosecurity plans is to undertake slurry tests for Johnes Disease. Over the next month, QDOwill decide on a pathway forward and contact its members to see if they would like tests to be undertaken on their farms.

ACCC Time Extended

By QDO President, Brian Tessmann

The final reporting date for the ACCC inquiry into the dairy industry has been extended by the Federal Treasurer until 30 April 2018. Allegedly, the ACCC requested that the Treasurer grant it an extension to allow for an extended consultation period with industry following the release of its interim report which was initially scheduled for November this year.

While this delay is disappointing to Queensland dairy farmers, hopefully it will result in the ACCC working closer with farmer groups including Queensland Dairyfarmers’ Organisation (QDO). QDO believe this closer working relationship will be critical in addressing and remedying the problems in the domestic milk market.

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce previously said he will fix the domestic milk market issues including ending $1 per litre milk. It was in this vain that the Deputy PM and the Treasurer charged the ACCC to carry out this inquiry with the explicit intent of finding a resolution. Therefore, it is vital the ACCC does not continue to hide behind certain failed ideological beliefs, but instead steps up to the reality and recommend how current laws can be fixed to provide fairness to the market.

The recent Senate Economics committee report also outlined some of the industry’s issues and provided some key recommendations around collective bargaining and fair contracts including codes of conduct. At the end of the day there is no point having these inquiries if they do not do anything to fix the industry.

As one key government player said to us recently during an informative debate in Canberra, the fact is deregulation has failed in at least two industries; the electricity industry and the dairy industry. Government must act to either fix markets so they work once again or reverse the deregulation back to how we had it before.   

City MP spends a day on the dairy

By QDO State Councillor, Brendan Hayden

It is not every day that a politician offers to come out and lend a hand on a dairy farm. It is even rarer when that politician is a Labor MP from Brisbane without a single dairy farm in his inner city electorate.

Recently, member for Greenslopes Joe Kelly and his family visited our dairy farm in Pilton on the Darling Downs. He traded in the suit and tie of the chamber for the apron and gloves of the dairy pit. It was refreshing to spend a day with a politician in a very real and honest setting, contrary to the usual censored and non-committal state we have become accustom to.

While I do not intend to go into all the details about what was discussed, it would be fair to say that before his day on the farm, Joe had a limited understanding and appreciation of the real challenges faced by Queensland dairy farmers. After spending a day together, Joe had a much better understanding of how detrimental $1 milk has been to the Queensland dairy industry and why it is so important to fix the problem with programs like the Fair Milk Logo.

Overall having Joe out on the farm was a very positive experience for both of us as we learned and got a better appreciation of what one another does day-to-day. If more politicians spent a day or two out on farm I genuinely believe, at a very minimum, we would all get a better understanding of how and why dairying has been and will continue to be essential for Queensland.

Queensland Dairyfarmers’ Organisation (QDO) now extends the same offer we made to Joe to all other state and federal MPs in Queensland. Come spend a day with one of our members and we can promise you that you will walk away with a new appreciation for that milk on your cereal or in your coffee.

QDO is ready to help members tell our industry’s story and encourage them to personally invite their local MPs to come out to the farms and experience the life of a dairy farmer.

Reef awards to showcase industry’s best

By QDO President, Brian Tessmann

Dairy has always been a proactive industry when it comes to natural resource management and we should celebrate this with showing our wider community the custodial nature of our farmers. While dairy is by no means the largest agricultural impactor on the Reef it continues to a sector wide leader in implementing on-farm best management practice changes to reduce its footprint. 

The Reef Alliance Awards is a fantastic opportunity to do this. It is so important that as an industry and a community we recognise the efforts our farmers are making towards improving their land management practices and thereby the water quality flowing into the Great Barrier Reef.

Over the past 9 years through funding from the Australian Government’s Reef Rescue and Reef Programme the dairy reef programs have engaged 157 farms, been able to support the development of 149 soil and nutrient management plans and provide support through incentives to 71 farmers with 119 projects valuing a total of $3 million.

In previous years of the Reef Alliance Awards we have celebrated farmers such as Dennis Brynes from the Atherton Tablelands who has made improvements to his effluent management system, irrigation system and riparian areas through creek crossing. Dennis has been a great ambassador and example of how Queensland dairy farmers are leading the way in implementing on-farm changes making a big difference.

I encourage all farmers to think of any of their neighbours and fellow farmers that should be recognised for their contribution towards improving the quality of water leaving their farm through either improved nutrient, sediment or pesticide management. It is essential that dairy farmers continue to step up tell their good story on behalf of the industry and the sector as a whole.

Proactive programs like the Australian Government’s Reef Programme and similar programs are essential for the accelerated adoption of improved management practices on our farms. And we welcome the opportunity by all Government sectors to continue with similar projects.

For more information on the Reef Alliance Awards please visit www.qff.org.au/reef-alliance/awards

QDO takes dairy issues to Canberra

By QDO President Brian Tessmann

For three days last week, Queensland Dairyfarmers’ Organisation president Brian Tessmann, executive officer Eric Danzi and adviser Mike Smith travelled to Canberra to meet with members and senators from both sides of the chamber. The key meetings included Shadow Agriculture minister Joel Fitzgibbon and Barnaby Joyce’s office. Mr Fitzgibbon agreed to work with QDO on some more innovative ideas and we found the deputy PM’s key adviser, Simon Price, to be very knowledgeable on the issue and open to working through options.

QDO also received strong support from Queensland LNP Senator James McGrath and House of Representative Members Llew O’Brien (Wide Bay) and Scott Buchholz (Wright). QDO received interest from the Shadow Assistant Treasurer, Andrew Leigh, who was keen to find out more about the unfair competition issues plaguing Queensland dairy farmers.

High on the discussion list for all members were the ‘effects test’, unfair contract legislation, the Senate Economics Committee’s recommendations, and the current ACCC inquiry that is set to report on 1 November. In regards to the ‘effects test’, QDO is working to ensure the ACCC properly interprets both the effects and the extension of unfair contract protections to small businesses.

Under existing arrangements, Australian dairy farmers are not entitled to collectively boycott processors or retailers. This means if farmer groups engage in any form of picket line or strike-type action, not only will they be liable for damages, the ACCC could charge the group for engaging in illegal industrial action. This was made clear to QDO and Australian Dairy Farmers’ (ADF) in recent talks with the ACCC which confirmed it would not hesitate in taking legal action against farmer organisations who engaged in such activities.

Most members and senators have agreed to work with QDO to find viable solutions based off recommendations of the Senate Committee and findings from the yet-to-be-released ACCC inquiry. It appears that there was bipartisan, in-principle support for restoring market fairness in Queensland. However, actions will go a lot further than verbal reassurance.