INITIALLY there were only enough chairs for about 30 people, but by the time the ACCC dairy industry inquiry in Toowoomba had started, more than 100 dairy farmers were in the room.
Only quick thinking by the staff at the City Golf Club ensured the far bigger than expected crowd were seated to provide feedback to the first of eight public consultations across Australia.
Key in motivating farmers was the devastating impact that $1/litre milk in supermarkets has had on the Queensland industry, which Queensland Dairyfarmers Organisation president Brian Tessmann has seen more than 180 farmers leave the industry since 2011.
Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairman Rod Sims said the forum was an opportunity for farmers to discuss how the dairy industry was functioning.
No record of the names of farmers attending the forums would be kept and no record would be made of specific comments, he said. Instead, a broad summary of industry comments would be posted on the ACCC website.
Mr Sims said the government ordered inquiry into the dairy industry gave the ACCC the powers to compulsorily acquire information from the main players within the industry, and in particular from processors and supermarkets.
Ms Sims said the report ultimately generated by the inquiry headed by ACCC agricultural commissioner Mick Keogh would result in at least one of three likely paths. One was that a breach of competition act was uncovered, another was the operations of the industry would become far more transparent, or thirdly some players would be forced to change their behavior.
ACCC dairy forums will also be held:
February 7 – Club West, Taree, NSW.
February 14 – Traralgon, Vic.
February 27 – Warrnambool, Vic.
February 28 – Shepparton, Vic.
March 16 – Bunbury, WA.
March 20 – Hahndorf, SA.
March 22 – Burnie, Tas.
The story Dairy farmers turn out in force for first ACCC inquiry first appeared on Queensland Country Life.