GRAIN industry leaders have thrown their support behind a push from the nation's peak fodder body to organise a national database of fodder stocks, but there is uncertainty among grass roots hay producers who have said it would force them to hand over their market information for nothing in return.
Earlier in the month the Australian Fodder Industry Association (AFIA) called for a market database to provide better insight into national supply and demand trends.
One of the most frequent laments during the current drought has been the lack of easily accessible information, meaning both buyers and sellers of fodder are unsure of what is happening in the market.
AFIA chief executive John McKew said the industry needed more accurate information to help buyers and sellers get a clearer idea of how much fodder was in reserve.
"Industry representatives continually ask 'how much fodder is in the system?'" Mr McKew said.
"They want to know where is it going and how much is in reserve, but the industry does not know, that information is not recorded for domestic fodder production and sales."
Andrew Weidemann, Grain Producers Australia chairman, has been a long-time advocate of improved transparency in terms of grain stocks information and said he felt the same way about fodder.
"I was involved in talks on the issue of stocks information in both the fodder and grains sectors last week and we talked about how valuable that information would be and how it would ensure a fairer system for both buyers and sellers."
"It would help the domestic market to manage in times of extreme drought like we've had to face in the past two years."
Mr Weidemann said he did not believe a fodder scheme needed to be particularly onerous.
"You could have two reports a year, one coming out at the start of March and one at the start of October compiled from data collected from farmers by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, larger farmers do it once a year anyway so it is not much of an increase.
"That would give the industry the numbers to work off through the year."
However, a Victorian Mallee hay producer has said he would be disinclined to share any information.
"I don't see the advantage in it for hay producers and I don't think it's a good idea," said Terry Kiley, Nandaly.
"It just seems to me like we'd be giving away valuable market information for free without getting anything in return," Mr Kiley said.
"I view my hay in my private stock as my property and if and when I disclose the information on what I have it is up to me."
"The concept seems to me to hand an advantage to hay traders at the expense of producers."
Mr Kiley was also unsold on the thought of having to complete more onerous survey work.
"I don't think farmers love doing the ABS stuff as it is and they certainly wouldn't be happy with another set of paperwork they have to do each year."
Brendan Taylor, AgForce grains section, felt some form of stocks reporting could be good for the fodder industry but added he was not sure of how it would work in practice.
"It's a good idea, but I'm not sure how the logistics would work in practice," Mr Taylor said.
"Any scheme that was worthwhile would take a lot of managing."
Looking to the immediate future, Mr McKew said the bushfire crisis had added to the demand for fodder stocks and that hay could become very difficult to buy.
"Australia will not necessarily run out of fodder, but the quantities available for trading - available for those who need to buy it in quantity - could run out," he said.
"AFIA has been told that some farmers with stocks of hay have held off putting it into the marketplace due to the need to sustain their own livestock enterprise."
Importing fodder won't be an option either, according to Mr McKew.
"The biosecurity risk is too high, and the Agriculture Department has said that in the past too," he said.
"We could potentially end up with a lot of worse problems linked to imported weeds and diseases."