Lessons learned from Dairy Plan consultation

Dairy Plan consultation still has value: UDV

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DAIRY SCEPTICISM: Kaarimba dairy farmer Mark Bryant says producers are back to square one, with the scrapping of plans for a single, national industry body.

DAIRY SCEPTICISM: Kaarimba dairy farmer Mark Bryant says producers are back to square one, with the scrapping of plans for a single, national industry body.

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Dairy industry now has wealth of information about future, says UDV chief Mumford.

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Valuable lessons have been learned from the consultation on a single, national dairy organisation, even though the plan has now been scrapped.

That's according to United Dairyfarmers of Victoria president Paul Mumford.

The dairy industry last week announced it was walking away from plans to set up a new single whole-of-industry organisation.

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That plan was developed in response to a key recommendation of the Australian Dairy Plan.

"We have now got the discussion happening and we can open up a broader discussion, away from proposals for a national organisation," Mr Mumford said.

He said it was "a process we had to have".

"Even though $700,000 was spent, and it appears the process has failed, the information that was collected by that steering group is going to help construct and deliver the future," he said.

"That evidence needed to be collected and analysed, and that's a great resource."

He said questions around resourcing of farmers still needed to be resolved.

"It's a document that should always remain on the second shelf, or in our back pocket," he said.

"It doesn't mean we should be throwing it in the rubbish bin."

He agreed the direction outlined by the three major dairy bodies adequately addressed the issues.

"It's about delivering better advocacy for our farmers," he said.

It would have taken three to five years to implement a national body.

Mr Mumford agreed the direction outlined by the three major dairy bodies adequately addressed the issues.

"How do farmers want to be represented at a local, state and national level?" he said.

"That's our challenge."

Peak organisations Dairy Australia, Australian Dairy Farmers and the Australian Dairy Products Federation say they remain committed to industry reform.

The three groups will now look to boost dairy farmer representation, to increase transparency around research, development and extension priority setting and involve processing companies in industry-wide initiatives.

DA chair James Mann said a key sticking point for the proposed new body was that it would have compromised government investment in research and development.

"The proposal to create a single, whole of industry body was always considered to be ambitious," Mr Mann said.

"After extensive consultation, it is clear that restrictions prevent the use of levies for agri-political activity and that an all-in-one industry model is unable to address the priority of a stronger and more unified industry voice."

It would also compromise government investment in RD&E.

But western district dairy farmer Bernie Free is among producers who have set up a new body, Dairy Farmer Voice, to challenge what it says is the domination of processors.

Mr Free, Winslow, told a recent Senate hearing the plan was a good opportunity to begin afresh.

He said he had heard the consultation cost $1.4 million.

"And we're back where we were two years ago, when the first meeting was held in Melbourne," he said.

"I don't think there has been the desirewithin the leadership to make change.

"It's a huge wasted opportunity from what showed so much promise at the start."


He said the plan was "extremely flawed" and not acceptable to grassroots dairy farmers.

"The dairy industry clearly needs reform through the fact the peak bodies don't have many people paying membership fees," he said.

"Farmers are walking away from the organisations we have already got.

"Where we go to from here is a very good question, as what we've got is not working and we need change.

"We need something that is going to drive unity and that's what I am looking for."

Kaarimba dairy farmer Mark Bryant said he wasn't "one little bit surprised" by the decision.

"They have spent a lot of money and time to stay the same, in my personal view," Mr Bryant said.

"When you have the same people, who have made the decisions for the last 15-20 years, don't expect a different outcome."

He said the majority of dairy farmers he spoke with didn't know who the leaders of DA or the ADF were.

"And they don't care," he said.

"They are tired of this, they are sick of promises that they are going to change and start listening to farmers and make it better and then they don't."

He said he personally believed groups like Murray Dairy did a good job, as they were closest to the farmer.

"I am not sure about the hierarchy that sits above them," he said.

Chris Griffin, Moe, said a single body was a bridge too far for many farmers.

"As far as an idea, it probably had considerable merit, but when change is afoot people become apprehensive," Mr Griffin said.

"I am hopeful of a bit more collaboration and cohesion between all organisations within the industry to the benefit of the sector."

He said some would take issue with a single body.

They might see some members of the body having a conflict of interest over decisions they made.

"Everybody in the industry should work cohesively for the betterment of the dairy farmer and the sustainability of the industry in Australia," he said.

The story Lessons learned from Dairy Plan consultation first appeared on Stock & Land.

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