QDO to go ahead with Fair Milk logo


By Brian Tessmann, QDO President

While it was disappointing that the Fair Milk Logo Bill was defeated in State Parliament last week, Queensland Dairyfarmers’ Organisaion (QDO) welcomes Government’s plan to assist industry to develop its own Queensland Fair Milk Logo scheme.

The failed Fair Milk Bill sought to establish a logo scheme that would assist consumers to identify local milk that delivered a sustainable return to Queensland dairy farmers. While QDO would have preferred the Bill as moved by the Katter Australia Party (KAP) to be passed, the financial assistance offered by the government will go a long way to helping industry develop and promote valuable information to inform consumers.

The funding is made up of around $550,000 for QDO to develop the Logo scheme itself, plus $120,000 for the Department of Agriculture to further develop the Queensland Dairy Accounting Scheme (QDAS) and facilitate greater farmer participation. In addition to this, a further allocation of $290,000 will be set aside for the Office of Small Business to assist farmers and small processors to diversify their product range and better develop markets and branding.

QDO is looking forward to finalise details on the funding announcement with the government over the coming weeks. It is essential that a logo is developed and used to add value for both consumers and dairy farmers.

As previously acknowledged by both farm and processor sectors of the industry, one of the major issues that have hurt farmers has been the commoditisation of white milk that has occurred since $1-per-litre milk started in 2011. One major lesson however learnt during the “I buy branded milk” campaign was that many Queensland consumers wanted a clear and simply way to know which brands to buy that support the future of dairy farming across the state.

QDO’s ‘Fair Milk Logo’ will deliver this customer certainty and in turn will deliver for our dairy farmer members and should be welcomed by everyone who supports a sustainable dairy industry in Queensland. 

Fair go at the show

By Brian Tessmann, QDO President

As Brisbane people enjoy the fun of the Ekka with politicians ensuring they are seen in the right places, they all need to remember that if farmers don’t get a fair go soon then Queensland dairy production will become little more than a novelty sometimes witnessed at the show. While many dairy farmers make considerable efforts in preparing a team of cattle to bring to the exhibition, back at home real world financial issues continue to drive more and more of them out of the industry.

It is interesting that the Labor party is targeting inequality as a focus for the next election campaign. You would think one of the first pit stops on their campaign would be to start addressing the genuine inequality within the dairy industry. Market power abuses, inequality in the value chain where the share of risk borne by the farm sector is high and the level of return is low compared to the processors and the retailers a problem that has only worsened over the last decade, show real inequity.

Queensland Dairyfarmers’ Organisation (QDO) has often highlighted these inequalities to all Ekka-goers we can get access to. This year, the notorious QDO crazy cow that discourages the pricing of $1-litre milk may not make a visit. However, I am sure all dairy farmers on site would be happy to talk dairy issues to our interested city cousins.

It is the politicians however who have the ability to fix the unfair status quo.  Both state and federal parliamentarians from all sides need to come together and work with Queensland dairy farmers and farming organisations to give our dairy industry a brighter future.

As you enjoy this year’s exhibition with delicious flavoured milks, ice creams and waffle cones, don’t forget the Queensland dairy farmers who supply it. Remember to remind our politicians as they pose for the perfect photo at the Ekka to give our dairy farmers the fair go they deserve.

Dairy farmers come together to discuss future

By Brian Tessmann, QDO President

The Australian Competition Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) dairy inquiry,  challenges with on-farm workplace health and safety and proposed milk manufacturing plants are ongoing issues for Queensland dairy farmers. These too will all be high on the agenda at the upcoming 2017 Queensland Dairyfarmers’ Organisation (QDO) Dairy Forum and AGM held on the 29 August at the City Golf Club South Street in Toowoomba.

ACCC Agricultural Commissioner Mick Keogh will inform farmers on the progress of the Dairy Inquiry as well as address competition issues between processors, retailers and farmers. Dairy farmers are encouraged to come along and hear the progress of previous complaints into processors’ milk swaps, supply exclusivity clauses in contracts, as well as the role and effectiveness of collective bargaining groups and how to improve them. 

A popular speaker on the agenda is former Rugby League great Shane Webcke. As Queensland’s Safety Ambassador, Shane will share is powerful and personal experiences around the importance of following workplace health and safety processors on our farms. Whether you know him as a front row forward for the Maroons or a Seven News sports presenter, he is definitely one special guest who is not to be missed.

Returning again this year is Steve Laracy from the proposed Integrated Milk Project at the Wellcamp Airport. Many dairy farmers are eager to hear about the progress made on the timelines Steve outlined at last year’s forum. With many farmers being keen to see the first concrete slab poured, there is a broad understanding that this project has the potential to be a game changer for Queensland dairy farmers and therefore must be done right.

QDO encourages members to come along to the Dairy Forum and the AGM to hear from distinguished speakers and have the opportunity to join the conversation and discuss topics relevant to the future of the Queensland dairy industry.

Dairy Biosecurity Workshops

By Brian Tessmann, QDO President

Queensland dairy farmers have always committed to keeping their farm businesses free from pests and diseases. It is because of this that Queensland dairy farmers are concerned about the rules changes made last year to the state’s biosecurity legislation around managing and limiting the spread of both Cattle Ticks and Bovine Johnes Disease (BJD). 

In a nutshell these changes were about transferring more of the onus of biosecurity responsibilities and prevention management from government to the farmer. The new legislation places a biosecurity obligation on all farmers to stay free of pests and disease and, more importantly, not to infect anyone or anything else with a pest or disease.  

To assist farmers with their obligation to preventing diseases such as Bovine Johne's Disease and Cattle ticks, Queensland Dairyfarmers’ Organisation (QDO) and Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (QDAF), will be running a number of free workshops for QDO members. 

QDAF staff Lawrence Gavey (BJD expert) and Malcolm Macleod (tick expert) will be assisting in facilitating the workshops, which will provide disease management options for farmers. These workshops offer a chance for farmers to develop accredited biosecurity plans to ensure their properties remain free of infections. These plans will allow farmers to demonstrate their infection free status to cattle buyers, milk processors and other interested parties. 

Unlike southern states, where Bovine Johnes Disease is commonplace amongst the dairy industry, Queensland has maintained its status as free from the disease. If the QDO biosecurity program is followed it can be expected most QDO members will maintain a Bovine Johnes Disease Dairy Score of seven or better, ensuring future markets remain open and viable. 

I encourage all members to attend one of these biosecurity workshops find out how to protect both their farms and themselves under the new biosecurity obligations. The first of these workshops will be held in Gympie and Kingaroy on 8 August and Toowoomba and Warwick on 9 August. Spaces are limited so if you are a QDO member in these areas please contact QDO and book your place.

Farmers and processors both deserve more money from retailers

By Ross McInnes, QDO Vice-President

Queensland Dairyfarmers’ Organisation (QDO) fully supports processors in their attempts to increase the price of all dairy produce in retailers with the goal to improve the value of the entire supply chain. However, farmers are rightly frustrated when processors ask for more from retailers but, in the same breath, pay us less.

Farmers need a viable processing sector, and processors need a viable farm sector to supply a sustainable raw product. There is no doubting that processors’ costs have increased in recent times. But so have farmers’. My electricity price for irrigation went up by 10.8% this month and is over 350% over the last eight years. The farm sector’s terms of trade has reduced by more than eight cents per litre since 2011 started and no doubt, the processors figures would be similar.

Since the decision was made in 2011 to dramatically discount white milk in Australia, QDO and Australian Dairy Farmers (ADF) have consistently condemned retailers’ actions that have negatively impacted farmers. The white milk processors of the dairy industry have been severely impacted by the introduction of discounted milk, but many continue to supply to supermarkets that stop their brands from reaching higher values. The pressure from the retail sector on processors to tender ‘competitive’ prices is clear when factoring the power retailers have over processors in controlling the distribution of processors’ full range of products.

Within our region Norco has held their price, Lion has reduced their price and Parmalat is seeking a reduction through arbitration. Twelve months ago, Murray Goulburn reduced their NSW farm gate price by nearly five cents per litre and their implosion allowed other processors to reduce their milk cost as well. Processors have now used the NSW situation to justify a degradation of the Queensland price.

Processors deserve more from retailers, but farmers also deserve more. Cost increases affect us all, except the major supermarkets it would seem.

Queensland milk price puzzle

By Brian Tessmann, QDO President

The outcomes from farm gate milk price negotiations between milk processors and farmers in Queensland has ranged from puzzling to perplexing.

While Norco has managed tohold its milk price paid to farmers, Dairy Farmers Milk Co-operative (DFMC) members who supply Lion in southern Queensland are looking at around a half a cent per litre drop in farm gate price. Lion suppliers in North Queensland are also likely hold their price, however they may end up paying the freight on the majority of excess milk that might need to be transported south to find a market. 

This could be around 25 cents per litre if spread across all northern Queensland milk potentially exceeding a one cent per litre cost depending on the amount of excess milk.

The Parmalat farm gate price for the current calendar year however remains a mystery even after the six months since the contracts were due to be renewed. During this six months the price farmers have been paid has been down three cents per litre as no current resultant bonus payment mechanisms are in place.

The twists and turns of the wrangling between Parmalat and the collective bargaining group Premium Milk over the past 12 months has left many farmers feeling financially insecure with many of their futures left in the dark. 

With no clear idea as to when farmers will see some of that three cents per litre returned to them, the financial and emotional stakes are high.

WhileQDO is required legally to not be involved directly with these price negotiations, it is always ready and willing to provide advice or information to farmer collective groups undertaking these negotiations and has done so on many occasions.

It is disappointing that some milk processors have used these price negotiations as opportunities to improve their margins at the expense of Queensland dairy farmers who as is often the case, are in a weak bargaining position.

Toowoomba formula promising for dairy industry

By Brian Tessmann, QDO President

The Queensland Dairyfarmers’ Organisation (QDO) has always been willing to assist with new market opportunities that will collectively benefit our industry and our farmer members. The Integrated Dairy Project proposed by LARPRO and their General Manager Steve Laracy looks to be one of the most promising and practical market opportunities in recent times. While dairy farmers are understandably cautious, following disappointments such as the shelving of the Hope Dairies project, they are still keen to see new market opportunities open up.

Over recent years Mr Laracy has kept in contact with QDO including his attendance at our most recent board meeting last month. He was also a key speaker at the QDO Forum held in Toogoolawah last year where he clearly outlined the advantages of building a dairy manufacturing plant in close proximity to the Wellcamp Brisbane West International Airport. He spoke on advantages that come with having a lowest cost freight option to get quality dairy products flown into the big population centres in southern China.

As with most things worth doing, it won’t happen overnight and dairy farmers will understandably get lot more interested once the first concrete is poured. The project will move sensibly in stages with a two-year gap before local milk intake commences. Once the plant makes its mark on the southern Queensland milk market, and as the project looks to expand, there will likely be an increase in demand and competition within the region.

This project has offered the strongest outlook and prospects when compared to various genuine and tyre kicker schemes QDO has heard over the past several years. To update farmers and the industry, Steve Laracy will once again be a speaker at our QDO AGM Forum to be held on 29 August in Toowoomba. I urge members to attend the forum to ensure they remain up-to-date and aware of business opportunities as they present themselves within the Queensland dairy industry.

1st July – Let’s push the power price up

By Ross McInnes, QDO Vice-President

With the becoming of a new financial year brings with it that unpleasant yearly ritual of of the jolt we all experience from our increased to electricity bills.

When I look at our old accounts from December 2008, the off peak rate was 7.1c/kwh. From next week that will rise from 23c to 25.48c/kwh, which is a rise of 10.8 per cent this year and 358 per cent in just over 8 ½ years.

The most bizarre part of this increase means that the off peak power is now 4 per cent more expensive than the domestic rate. There is no way that energy retailers can seriously maintain power supplied to irrigation users between 9pm and 7am more expensive than domestic consumption during peak load periods. It now raises the unfortunate reality that the cherry picking that has resulted in the doubling of irrigator’s tariff increase compared to domestic tariffs has been politically motivated rather than cost reflective.

Prior to this year the reason for the increases has been to pay for the gold plating of the electricity network which was valued at a rate of return at least twice the best investment rate available. This year however, the daily charges have gone done by about 5 per cent, but the reason given for this increase has been the generation costs. The generation costs make up less than one third of the retail cost, so we are led to believe that these costs alone have contributed to the overall increase.

At present there is no transparency in electricity generation cost. Advocates for renewables continue to quote cheaper costs, yet we not yet seen a situation where increases in renewable regeneration have resulted in reduction in electricity charges for consumers.

Worst of all, there appears to be no desire from any state government around Australia to reduce electricity prices, because the dividends flowing into treasury coffers continues to prop up State budgets. It’s a good thing we still have our sense of humour, because we need it.

Nowhere Budget​​​​​​​

By Brian Tessmann, QDO President

The State Budget handed down by Queensland Treasurer Curtis Pitt last Tuesday has done little to give clear direction for the state’s economy or provide a better deal to its efficient but struggling dairy farmers. While we appreciate the government’s continued drought assistance, many of our industry’s real priorities have not been addressed.

High on the agenda for farmers is a reduction in electricity costs that are crippling many agricultural industries, including dairy. It has been disappointing that much of the hype around power issues has been driven by advocates for the coal industry rather than those looking to build an efficient and sustainable electricity system.

As power generation costs amount to around a quarter of our electricity bills and most generation sourcesrelatively comparable the state government needs to proactively look at costs in the rest of the electricity supply chain. These range from electricity distribution costs to the network valuation and dividends returned to the government on power assets post the generation units, as well as profit levels of electricity retailers. It is essential that government works alongside industry to continue assisting farmers to reduce their electricity use through implementing efficiencies and adopting renewable alternatives.

Also absent in the State Budget was government support to help inform consumers about what is sustainably priced fresh milk from Queensland. It was disappointing that the members from both major parties on the parliamentary Agricultural Committee backed away from recommending the Fair Milk Logo Bill as a vehicle for informing consumers and helping their state’s dairy farmers.

Considering there is a state election approaching, we remind both sides that support is a two way street before they consider not passing the bill. There needs to be a significant and effective plan B if the decision is made to sink the Fair Milk Logo. Queensland Dairyfarmers’ Organisation (QDO) is ready and willing to work with both parties to ensure our farmer members get a fair go.

Looking for Guidance on Electricity Pricing

By Ross McInnes, QDO vice-president

Energy prices are at the forefront of peoples’ minds these days with consecutive price hikes and wild fluctuations all part and parcel with what farmers have come to expect.

Australian Chief Scientist Alan Finkel released his much awaited Energy Report last week, but anyone who was expecting substantive information on which to base business decisions would have been left disappointed. The perceived trigger for conducting the review was the 50% rise in consumer electricity costs and the appraisal that this review would be better than doing nothing at all.

However, this is underwhelming for agricultural businesses that have seen their off peak charges rise by 300-400% in the last 8 years. I am sure the 4.9 million Queenslanders who contribute an average $265 per year to the Queensland Government’s $1.3 billion dividend from the electricity sector must be thinking the same thing.

Ever since we signed up to achieve the Renewable Targets to reduce CO2 emissions, there has been a complete vacuum of information coming from all levels of government. There is a universal view that renewable sources of energy will become cheaper by comparison. If the cost of electricity is continually gouged by 20 or 40 or 50% per year, then renewables will certainly appear cheaper.

In a recent survey by a national paper, it was revealed many people believe the price of electricity will increase if we don’t have a renewable target, but the facts do not back this up.

Professor Finkel said to the Senate the other day “renewables are cheaper than coal”, but he doesn’t know how much electricity prices will rise, which is difficult to comprehend.

If Professor Finkel is correct, why does solar get a guaranteed feed in tariff three times higher than the present cost of coal generation?

Some clear guidance from our elected representatives and scientists would be very welcome.

ACCC meet with Tableland dairy farmers

By QDO North Queensland State Councillor James Geraghty

QDO State Councillor, James Geraghty 

QDO State Councillor, James Geraghty 

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) recently held a forum in Malanda to hear from local dairy farmers as part of its national inquiry into the dairy industry. The Tableland dairy farmers who attended the meeting joined a total of over 600 farmers who had already attended one of seven forums held throughout the country.

The national inquiry focuses on the fairness of contracts between farmers and processors as well as other sections of the industry. This includes an analysis into distribution of profits; investigating milk swaps between processors;  transparency of pricing calculations; and whether or not collective bargaining is working within the dairy industry.

The difficulties with shifting from one processor to another was of particular concern to dairy farmers who expressed dismay that one major processor in Queensland renews contracts in July while the other major processor renews in January.  Furthermore, government bodies are under pressure to make amendments to current legislation that outlines processors have no obligation to listen to or negotiate with collective bargaining groups.

The main conversation around the distribution of profits in the dairy industry concentrated around issues associated with $1 per litre milk, $6 per kilogram cheese and the negative flow on effects these products can have on the supply chain in different dairying regions. 

Once again the question was asked of whether farmers were living on the depreciation of their assets. The amount of depreciation accumulated on an asset is meant to be put aside and used to purchase a replacement asset when needed. However, in most cases, this is not happening.  The assets are wearing out and farmers are being forced to borrow money to buy new ones. This is opposite to how a viable ‘business’ should be operating.

On behalf of dairy farmers on the Tablelands, I want to thank Queensland Dairyfarmers’ Organisation (QDO) and the ACCC staff for facilitating the Malanda meeting and allowing local farmers to have their say on this very important inquiry.

Milk Price Dispute Drags On

By Brian Tessmann, QDO President

The ongoing milk price dispute between Parmalat and the collective bargaining group that represents the majority of their Queensland dairy farmers, Premium Milk, continues to cause considerable financial and emotional distress to affected dairy farmers. Since the beginning of the year just under half of all Queensland dairy farmers have technically been without a contract despite still supplying Parmalat.

This uncertainty has been compounded with the absence of the three-cent per litre incentive in last year’s contract which is no longer being paid. While reports suggest refunds will be paid once the price determination is settled, many suppliers in their current state are really hurting. Like many farmers, I believed once the old contracts ended without agreement on December 31 last year that the arbitration process would then be initiated, progressed and finalised within a few months. Currently we are approaching the five-month mark without a contract resolution in sight and consequently no three-cent incentive refunds.

While Queensland Dairyfarmers’ Organisation (QDO) strongly holds the belief that any decrease in farm gate price is not warranted, QDO is legally prohibited from directly participating in price negotiations. Around deregulation in 2000, QDO and its then president Pat Rowley, were instrumental in achieving Government approval to establish the limited present day collective bargaining arrangement which resulted in the establishment of Premium Milk.

Clearly more needs to be done to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our collective bargaining groups. This should and will hopefully be addressed in the Australian Competition Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) ongoing review of the dairy industry. A vibrant and robust collective bargaining system is in both our farmers and the broader Queensland dairy industries immediate and long term interests.

Judging from the volume of calls to QDO alone, it is vital for Parmalat suppliers that this current process is brought to a fair, prompt and just conclusion. This will give Queensland dairy farmers the certainty and stability they need to continue supplying high quality and reliable fresh milk to our consumers.

Dairy all in the same boat

By Brian Tessmann, QDO President

It has been disappointing to hear some media misrepresenting the current state of the dairy industry in Australia. There has been a misunderstanding of the factors that have led to the recent decline in Queensland’s dairy industry.

Particularly disturbing was one reporter’s assertion that although the northern industry may be failing, there was nothing to worry about because the southern industry was growing and would supplement these losses. A proclamation such as this is comprehensively inaccurate. Unfortunately, the Dairy Australia spokesperson failed to properly articulate the real situation to the reporter and their audience.

To properly understand the current state of Queensland’s dairy industry, some historical context is required. There have been three great downturns in the Queensland industry since WWII. There was a severe decline in the 1970’s following Britain joining the European Community (EEC). Next came industry deregulation in 2000 followed by the current decline after the introduction of $1 milk per litre in 2011.

Notably, there was once a corresponding increase in production in southern Australia following Britain entering the EU. However in the years since the introduction of $1 milk, there has been significant reductions in dairy production Australia-wide, both in Victoria and Queensland.

The facts are that despite the losses of farmers last century, the 1999/2000 year was the biggest milk production year Queensland has ever with a total of 848 ML of milk produced. However, since then over half of that milk production has been lost. In 1999/2000 Australia’s milk production was close to 12 billion litres, but has since struggled to stay above 9 billion litres. The recent Murray Goulburn led crisis looks to be lowering the national production toward 8 billion litres.

With most alternative sources of milk over 1000 km away from our market and overseas markets growing rapidly, the southern dairy industry is looking like an uncertain place to rely on for this state’s future fresh milk needs. Our state’s local fresh milk should always be the first choice for Queensland processors, retailers and consumers.

Dairying on the Budget

By Brian Tessmann, QDO President

Along with many other rural industries and small businesses the dairy industry cautiously welcomes the 2017 federal budget that was handed down by Treasurer Morrison.

Queensland Dairyfarmers’ Organisation (QDO) acknowledges that the federal government needed to strike a balance between the necessities of rural industries alongside the important debt reduction agenda. Despite this delicate balancing act it was encouraging to see a number of worthwhile initiatives and projects get approval or extra funding.

QDO welcomes the 12 month extension of the short term asset write off equipment under $20,000 for business with under $10 million turnover, an increase from the previous $2 million turnover cap. Funding of major regional projects along with the Building Better Regions Fund and the extended eligibility for the Farm Business Concessional Loans Scheme is also welcomed by QDO.

The budget also included funding for a number of very worthwhile work programmes and initiatives ranging from getting serious about the inland rail project to putting some much needed funding into fire ant control. It was however disappointing that there was no new funding for better telecommunication services in the bush.

Also lacking were any plans to address the ongoing and burdensome energy costs currently strangling Australian farmers businesses. It is a shame this debate still revolves around political games about generation fuel sources when generation remains less than a quarter of costs incurred on electricity bills.

One way QDO is directly assisting members to reduce their electricity costs is through a recent partnership with ‘Make it Cheaper’. This partnership is providing our members with access to comparison across all types of electricity and gas accounts to help identify potential savings. This will be particularly useful wherethe market is offering regional competition for energy supply. This service could allow some members to make significant savings on their energy accounts. QDO is currently disseminating information and I encourage farmers to make the most of this membership benefit. For further information on how to save on your on farm electricity bill call the QDO office.

Dairy the focus of Food Heroes campaign

QDO's Ross McInnes presenting at the QCL Fodd Heroes event

QDO's Ross McInnes presenting at the QCL Fodd Heroes event

By Ross McInnes, QDO Vice-President

Dairying in Queensland will be the focus this week’s Queensland Country Life (QCL) Food Heroes series being held in Beaudesert. The campaign which is hosting a series of forums throughout the state is promoting the connection and relationship between the foods we consume and enjoy with the industries that produce them. The forum has offered tremendous opportunities for different commodities to not only promote their industry, but highlight the issues confronting them as well.

The Thursday, 11 May Beaudesert Dairy forum will be held at Mark and Colleen Platell’s farm. The day will provide an excellent opportunity for our sector to discuss and promote the issues affecting our industry to decision makers. Queensland Diaryfarmers’ Organisation (QDO) thank the Platell family, QCL and the Beaudesert Times for enabling this event to get off the ground.

The Platell farm was one of many on the Logan River that was devastated by major flooding from Cyclone Debbie in late March, so it is a credit to them for offering up their property despite the recent events.

Founder of Daughters of Dairy Farmers (DDF), Lisa Harrison will be speaking at the forum discussing the importance of bridging the gap between farmers and consumers. DDF is a wonderful example of how some in the dairy continue to use their absolute passion to highlight concerns confronting our industry. Well known Gympie dairy farmer John Cochrane will be present to give his views on market conditions and opportunities going forward.

I will be representing QDO and providing industry wide perspective on the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and Senate inquiries as well as highlighting what I see are the upcoming issues confronting our sector. I will also outline the inflationary effects that have hit the industry in the last 6 years.

QDO look forward to a constructive forum that will highlight both the positive and negative factors at play within our sector. It will be a fantastic opportunity to have a candid and real discussion about the challenges and future direction for Queensland dairy.

Pollies must deliver on fair go for dairying

By Brian Tessmann, QDO president

It seems that quite a few state and federal politicians remain out of step with community expectations when it comes to addressing the issues affecting dairy farmers in supplying the domestic market. 

Recent media appears to be back on board with the campaign to support dairy farmers in their struggle against a broken market. This manifests in getting rid of $1/L milk, and introducing and passing the ‘effects test’ by empowering consumers through the Queensland ‘Fair Milk Logo’ Bill.

This was particularly evident with the recent visit by Channel Nine’s the Today Show to the McInnes brothers’ farm in Harrisville. Just like the ABC Radio interview with Steve Austin the previous week, the Today Show host Karl Stefanovic was shocked that little had been done by government to help dairy farmers.  

While Karl assured  QDO vice-president Ross McInnes that consumers were behind him and all dairy farmers, it seems that government instead chooses to listen to other more powerful voices.

One particular issue that seemed to shock many, including ABC’s Steve Austin, was that despite all that Queensland dairy farmers have been through, both major parties at state level still refuse to recognise the problem. 

In fact, as Steve Austin said, government continues to refuse to provide consumers necessary information on which brands help local dairy farmers. It is crystal clear to the media that consumers want clarity on how they can make better informed decisions at the supermarket to support Queensland dairy farmers.

It’s time for our Queensland politicians to disregard the flawed logic of the Parliamentary Committee Report and pass something of substance at state level that will actually benefit struggling dairy farmers. It’s time for our federal politicians to listen to farmers and the broader community and show leadership to take on the supermarkets and get rid of $1/L milk.

No fair go for Logo

By Brian Tessmann, QDO President

Disappointment and bewilderment sum up the reaction from local dairy farmers after the Parliamentary committee report into the Fair Milk Price Logo Bill recommended that it not be passed. The report did not even attempt to amend the proposed legislation as is convention with other bills. The only takeaway for Queensland dairy farmers was a flat ‘no’.

It is clear the committee did its best to find reasons not to pass the bill. The few reasons it gave resemble a joke rather than the respectful response our industry deserved. The claim the logos would be in breach of section 92 of the constitution, the section that guarantees free trade between states, was an exaggeration of the highest order. Section 92 restricts states from excluding product from other states or imposing disincentives such as tariffs. The Fair Milk Logo Bill would assist in identifying local product, not restrict or impose any tariffs. If the supposed legal advice the committee received was real it would have been made in writing and made public.

The report misappropriated my claim that the logo may lead to an increase in value of Queensland produced milk as evidence of ‘restricted trade’.  Most people would see this as simply a result of positive consumer reaction from the logo, rather than a constitutionally contentious outcome. The committee’s rejection of the Fair Mark Logo Bill is the equivalent of questioning the merits behind the ‘Made in Australia’ logo because it would discriminate against imported goods.

Farmers have been shocked that the two major parties have, to date, not been prepared to assist consumers to identify local Queensland milk. As with the previous attempt to get the logos through the parliament, the idea has been thrown back to the industry. Promised support has never materialised and we have no belief this committee’s words have any more meaning than last time. The only workable outcome is for Parliament to pass the Bill and finally do something for dairy farmers in the state they claim to represent.  

Consumer Confusion

By Brian Tessmann, QDO President

There is a plethora of voices in the media these days trying to influence consumers in their buying choices. Just in the last few weeks I have seen conflicting views on television where one show says eating a certain food is beneficial for your health while another show says the opposite. Some media sources advocate for one-production systems saying a small, raw, and organic or cottage-type production system is best for the environment only to see other experts emerge with opposite views. On top of this, the thinking consumer is concerned about what effect their purchase has on farming families, regional communities and the economy at large.

Many members of the industry claim that all consumers want is the cheapest product, but while this may be the main purchasing consideration for some, there are many for whom the type of considerations above mean more than saving what may be just a few cents on their weekly shopping. One clear example of this has been the response of consumers to the buy-branded milk campaign which has lifted sales for a number of smaller local based brands by as much as 70%. What these discerning consumers need from the industry and the government is factual, reliable and easy-to-understand information right there on the product. This is of course exactly what the proposed sustainable milk mark is designed to do by informing consumers where the milk comes from and whether the farmer received a regionally sustainable return. The campaign has the opportunity to be very valuable to Queensland farmers if only enough consumers are willing to buy local milk and support growing dairy farms in our regional communities. However if the consumers don’t care as some say, then it will not be worth much at all.

Mixed Fortunes from Debbie

By Ross McInnes, QDO Vice-President

When Tropical Cyclone Debbie crossed the North Queensland coast two weeks ago, it looked almost as through the major dairy regions had dodged a bullet. However, as the system moved inland the true impact of Cyclone Debbie, both positive and negative, become apparent. Many dairy farmers on the Darling Downs welcomed much needed rain while others in the South East corner were inundated by localised flooding events that resulted from the record rainfall.

Major flooding occurred in many catchments in SEQ and Northern New South Wales with the Logan, Tweed and Richmond river systems measuring record flood heights. This resulted in utter devastation for many of our members. Over 30 farms were severely impacted in Scenic Rim and Logan City with most of the damage to crops and fencing.

One of the things that Dairy does very well is pull together in traumatic times. A team effort across the industry organisations of Queensland Dairyfarmers’ Organisation, Subtropical Dairy, milk processing companies, Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and Dairy Australia helps to ensure the immediate welfare of all farmers is addressed and crucial information regarding damage and impact is assessed. This information is extremely important to build a case for disaster relief that agriculture can apply for.

Queensland farms impacted by Tropical Cyclone Debbie represent some $45 million in GVP. QDO welcomes the announcement by the government to initially activating Category B assistance.  The industry will continue to assess the impact of recent events in order to activate Category C assistance.

The immediate damage bill looks to be in excess of $4 million on the dairy industry. It will be a tough road ahead with many lingering production impacts and feed gaps resulting from the floods.

QDO is working closely with the Scenic Rim Regional Council and local State member for Beaudesert Jon Krause to get assistance through organisations such as BlazeAid to help with the restoration and recovery works across farms.

You are not going through this alone, QDO is here and available to help Queensland dairy farmers, just like it has in the past.

Canberra Wash Up

By Brian Tessmann, QDO President

Queensland Dairyfarmers’ Organisation’s (QDO) visit to Canberra last week not only provided our national representatives with a better understanding of the issues affecting our domestic dairy industry, it also gave QDO some fresh insights into the rationale behind current policy positions.

Some positive news from our visit was that the ‘effects test’ Bill passed the House of Representatives. The challenge now is getting the laws through the Senate.

During our visit to Parliament House a number of members or advisors challenged us on our views on how to fix the domestic dairy industry. The one thing however that everyone agreed upon was there was something fundamentally wrong with the domestic dairy market and it is wasn’t the dairy farmers.

Labor appears to have locked itself into opposing the ‘effects test’, however most others across the political spectrum support the much needed change. What we were told by Labor and many others was that the ‘effects test’ was no silver bullet and that more needs to be done. QDO agreed in principle, but remains resolute in getting the ‘effects test’ passed as an important piece of an industry remedy.

Many politicians were keen to zero in on the relationship between farmers and processors and I believe this is key to the current ACCC inquiry into the industry. It was also interesting that one Coalition member said, while the ‘I buy branded milk’ campaign was good, they felt we should have a brand or logo on bottles to indicate that buying this bottle was positive for farmers. I informed them that is was exactly part of what the proposed Fair Milk Logo here in Queensland was designed to do.

While there was considerable debate in our discussions I would like thank those members who have long supported both the ‘effects test’ and other measures to repair the domestic dairy industry. QDO will continue to advocate for a fairer system on behalf of our dairy farmer members at both a state and federal level.