The National Dairy Plan Workshop steers our industry towards a unified future.

Over the last four months, 25 regional consultations were held across Australia to help inform the Australian Dairy Plan.

Nearly 1200 people including farmers, industry representatives and other interested parties attended. While there was no doubt that change is urgently needed, it was heartening that so many attendees sincerely believe that change is not only achievable but that it will ultimately help our industry to thrive.

From the regional consultations, three major themes were consistently supported by attendees. These included:

1.  the necessity for transformational change to the industry’s structure;

2.  marketing dairy to support and sustain the growth of the industry and growth of consumption; and

3.  securing a sustainable and fair farmgate price for all farmers across Australia.

At the National Dairy Plan Workshop held in Melbourne last week, these three themes were discussed at length; but the chief priority that dominated discussions was the need for transformational change.

From the outset, Australian Dairy Farmers’ President Terry Richardson has led the charge for restructuring. In his opening address at the two-day workshop, Terry reiterated his belief that transformational change is vital if our industry is to reverse its fortunes.

The major issue that has been voiced around merging key industry bodies stems from a concern that Federal Government funding provided in the past would be withheld if RD&E and Advocacy were to sit under one roof.

Mr Brian Ramsay from Inovact Consulting was one of the key guest speakers at the Workshop and was specifically invited to address concerns surrounding a merger which would see key functions being performed by a single entity.

Mr Ramsay said that so long as the merged entity remained firmly a-political and did not undermine government policy, there was no rational reason that these two areas need to be housed under separate bodies.

Clearly, these are major decisions for the dairy industry. The Dairy Plan has been a long time coming. The consultation process has been thorough, and all groups and individuals have been given ample opportunity to contribute. We cannot let the opportunity for major positive transformation be lost to endless and fruitless backroom arguments and petty rivalries.

Certainly, the changes will be felt across the industry. What we must accept and indeed embrace is the necessity and urgency for change.

Brian Tessmann – QDO President.