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A number of industry plans and inquiries are currently underway which are seeking to address the challenges facing Australia’s dairy industry and the livelihoods of people working in it.

Senate Inquiry into dairy industry

A Senate inquiry initiated by Senator Pauline Hanson into the performance of the dairy industry and profitability of dairy farmers since deregulation in 2000 was announced on 17 October 2019.

We support this inquiry and the awareness it will bring to the situation facing many dairy farmers, with record milk prices offset by challenges with feed and water prices and a dry weather outlook. Farmers in drought affected areas are particularly impacted and need co-ordinated support to help manage through these conditions.

This will be an important time for the Senate to recognise that drought and water policies have a big impact on the dairy sector. While there have been a number of Government inquiries into aspects of the dairy industry in recent years, we see this as a new opportunity for Government to consider the volatility of dairy farming in Australia, its decline in recent years and measures that can assist the industry.

The terms of reference of the inquiry are broad ranging and include aspects of Dairy Australia’s role, the structure of the industry, current arrangements for farmgate milk pricing and proposed mandatory code of conduct.

Dairy Australia will provide a formal submission to the inquiry. At a scheduled appearance before the Senate Estimates hearing of the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee on 22 October 2019, Dairy Australia Chair Jeff Odgers and Managing Director David Nation answered questions about the state of the industry and the role of Dairy Australia.

Submissions to the inquiry can be made here and close on 26 November 2019. The inquiry is scheduled to report in March. 

RDC modernisation

The Minister for Agriculture, Senator Bridget McKenzie, recently announced the creation of an advisory body to provide options on reform opportunities for Australia’s agricultural R&D system by early next year.

An accompanying discussion paper has been published calling for ideas to modernise Australia’s Research and Development Corporations (RDCs), in order to support farming innovation and the Commonwealth Government’s target of growing agricultural production to $100 billion by 2030.

The Minister acknowledges that RDCs have been instrumental in underpinning the profitability and productivity of Australia’s agricultural industries for many decades and that public–private co-investments made through RDCs are integral to the future of the system.

She also believes there are opportunities for Australian agriculture to increase its competitive advantages by addressing complex cross-industry challenges and working across value chains.

Dairy Australia fully supports the objectives of this review of agricultural R&D and the Minister’s vision of the role that science and technology and skilled labour can play in boosting the economic contribution of agriculture and keeping it internationally competitive.

We are excited by the potential to continue to evolve the role of RDCs to be more effective and to address the most important issues facing the dairy industry. This includes new ways to collaborate across industries and the world, and also to widen the range of investors to partner in research and development activities.

A discussion paper ‘Modernising the Research and Development Corporation system’ is available online and submissions are invited before 25 November 2019.

Mandatory dairy code of conduct

In March this year the Government announced its intention to progress a Mandatory Dairy Code of Conduct. It is now seeking feedback on an exposure draft of the Dairy Code and also milk pricing and trading concepts being developed separately by Australian Dairy Farmers. Submissions on one or both of these topics are sought by 22 November 2019. The Mandatory Dairy Code of Conduct will come into effect in January 2020.

Further information is available via https://haveyoursay.agriculture.gov.au/dairy-code-conduct.

Australian Dairy Plan

Dairy Australia is working alongside Australian Dairy Farmers, the Australian Dairy Products Federation and Gardiner Dairy Foundation to develop a five year plan to build a more profitable, confident and united dairy industry.

Over 1,000 people attended 25 regional consultations across Australia during May and June, which was followed by a national workshop attended by 130 delegates representing all Australian states and elements of the dairy supply chain, where key priorities for change were agreed.

Industry structure and advocacy emerged as a priority issue during recent national consultations. A Joint Transition Team has been created in response, to examine existing dairy industry organisational arrangements and recommend transformational change options to reform industry structures.

The development of the plan is progressing at pace and a Key Directions report will be released at the end of October. A first draft of the report will be published at the end of November, when there will then be a period of further consultation before the report is finalised.

There has been a high level of engagement from farmers in the development of the plan. It has the potential to implement transformative and positive change and is already addressing a number of the issues identified by other Government inquiries.

More information is available via the Australian Dairy Plan website https://www.dairyplan.com.au/.

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