WAFARMERS diary section president Mike Partridge intends to step aside later this year after leading local dairy farmers through four turbulent years.
Mr Partridge, who runs the family's White Rocks dairy farm and veal operation at Benger with his parents, wife Leanne and two teenage children and another smaller dairy operation, said on Monday he did not plan to nominate for another term.
He said he intended to remain on WAFarmers' dairy council, but would stand aside as president to give others the opportunity to step up.
"I'd like to see more young people become involved to support the industry," Mr Partridge said.
"I'd urge any young dairy farmers to become involved with (WAFarmers') dairy council because we need more young people having their say," he said.
Mr Partridge is also a member of the Australian Dairy Federation (ADF) national council.
The ADF is the national advocacy body representing dairy farmers across Australia.
Mr Partridge has not yet indicated what his plans are in relation to the ADF national council.
He served four years as WAFarmers dairy section vice president before being elected president.
Current dairy section vice president Ian Noakes, who farms near Margaret River at Forest Grove with wife Helen and sons Brad and Steve, said he was likely to "put his hand up" for president.
"I'm hoping somebody else might also nominate, competition is a good thing," Mr Noakes said.
With a herd of up to 580 cows, Mr Noakes was one of the first WA dairy farmers to sign a direct supply agreement with a major supermarket chain.
The Noakes family and nearby Treeton dairy farmers, the Evans family, signed supply agreements with Woolworths in 2014 for Farmers Own brand milks in WA which are processed and packaged for the supermarket chain by Brownes Dairy.
Woolworths had only trialled the direct supply purchase agreement in Manning, New South Wales, before introducing it in WA.
Mr Noakes has been WAFarmers dairy section vice president for four years with Mr Partridge as president.
They stepped up to head the dairy section at a turbulent time when the industry was reeling from Brownes telling five of its best suppliers it did not want their milk and declining to renew or extend their favourable contracts.
A move by Harvey Fresh to also shed suppliers the next year was averted and while no more WA dairy farmers were forced to stop farming against their will because no processor would collect their milk, it started a voluntary exodus of WA dairy farmers from the industry, with numbers dropping from about 160 to less than 140 over the past four years.
Mr Partridge and Mr Noakes also combined effectively to continue WAFarmers' campaign to have Woolworths, Coles and Aldi drop $1-a-litre pricing regimes for their own-brand milks.
The supermarkets' own-brand $1/L milk was introduced in 2011 and Mr Partridge and Mr Noakes claimed it devalued the State's dairy industry by millions of dollars through making own-brand milk worth less than bottled water, driving down payments to processors which, in turn, impacted on prices paid to farmers for their milk.
The $1/L pricing regime was effectively phased out last year, with the supermarkets committing to charge consumers more and pass the extra back to dairy farmers via processors.
Mr Partridge and Mr Noakes were also involved in attempting to ensure WA dairy farmers' concerns were conveyed to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) dairy inquiry and protected by a mandatory code of conduct introduced in January in relation to supply agreements with processors.
But Mr Noakes said on Monday he was "disappointed" in the ACCC and some of the contract provisions of the code.
He said WA dairy farmers had warned when the code was being prepared that a focus on 12-month agreements and time frames could lead to a lack of longer-term certainty for dairy farmers.
"They didn't listen and as a consequence, the longer-term contracts that processors used to offer seem to have dried up now," Mr Noakes said.
"Processors are not offering longer-term contracts so farmers only have certainty for 12 months."
This and other industry issues are expected to be discussed with dairy farmers at three 'update' meetings with Mr Partridge, Mr Noakes and Dr Laura Stocker, WAFarmers' executive manager - dairy policy, advocacy and engagement.
The first of those meetings was due to be held yesterday (Wednesday) at Albany.
p Nominations for WAFarmers dairy section president and vice president positions must be lodged before 5pm on Monday, August 10.
Nomination forms are available by contacting chief executive officer Trevor Whittington.
If more than one nomination is received for either position dairy farmers will vote to elect the new person at the dairy section annual general meeting scheduled for 2-3pm Thursday, September 10, at Abbey Beach Resort.
Notice of any motions to be considered at the annual meeting must also be submitted by Monday, August 10.