NSW Labor has made a promise to establish a full-time Dairy and Fresh Food Commissioner to provide a strong, independent voice for the industry.
The NSW Labor leader Jodi McKay and Labor's candidate for the Upper Hunter Jeff Drayton made the announcement on a visit to a dairy farm in Barrington on Wednesday.
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Mr Drayton said Upper Hunter dairy farmers have been left to fend for themselves after the worst drought in the state's history.
"The Upper Hunter pumps billions into the NSW economy and all our dairy farmers have gotten in return is a part-time bureaucrat," Mr Drayton said.
"The National Party promised to appoint a full-time, independent NSW Dairy and Fresh Food Commissioner but that's not what they delivered.
"I'm pleased NSW Labor has committed to delivering a true advocate for the dairy industry.
"Industry and farmers should not have to fend for themselves.
"They need urgent guidance and support."
Ms McKay, who grew up in Gloucester and whose father worked in the dairy industry, said the commissioner would be a full-time statutory appointment with legislated powers, independent of government.
"That means they'll advocate for dairy farmers," Ms McKay said.
"They'll be frank and fearless in their recommendations to government.
"This is what the dairy industry has been crying out for and that's what we will deliver."
It is intended that in the first year, the commissioner would develop the following:
- An effective mediation and arbitration process for NSW farmers, in consultation with local industry and the ACCC (in conjunction with the mandatory code for dairy).
- A truth in labelling policy for fresh food and dairy.
- A model for a national standard to deliver consistency in testing, sampling and the calibration of equipment used in fresh milk production to ensure a fair farm price.
The commissioner would also work with dairy farmers to review best practice business models, contracts and plans for long-term sustainability, and competition and succession planning.
They would also investigate ways to provide better access to the Farm Innovation Fund and develop a long-term research and development strategy for the industry.
Dairy Connect welcomed Labor's commitment.
Dairy Connect's president Graham Forbes and CEO Shaughn Morgan joined the group, which included local dairy farmers for the announcement.
Mr Morgan believes such a role should be implemented by dairy states Australia-wide.
"A state Dairy and Fresh Food Commissioner could anchor critical industry reforms by working in close cooperation with value-chain industry groups," he said.
"One of the commissioner's first steps must be to convene a whole of industry roundtable including farmers, processors, industry groups and retailers to address the systemic issues underpinning dairy and fresh food commodity groups."
Dairy Connect, in its submission to the NSW Parliamentary Committee long-term sustainability of the dairy industry in NSW, stated that the current office of the NSW Fresh Milk and Dairy Advocate does not have the necessary authority nor any legislative underpinning to make the position independent of government and to be the conduit between the dairy value-chain and the relevant ministers of the crown.
It is the view of Dairy Connect that the current structure of the position lacks comprehensive authority to bring forward any material positive change in the NSW dairy industry.
"The commitment of the NSW opposition addresses these perceived inadequacies and puts in place a way forward for a viable and sustainable dairy industry in NSW," Mr Forbes said.
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