Dairy code in works to improve fairness

By Deniliquin Pastoral Times

Blighty farmer and Murray Dairy board member Lachlan Marshall has urged on the need to see frameworks built to help ‘‘bring some ethics to the process around contracting and milk supply.’’

He believes the whole supply chain needed to be looked at, but also cautioned to not ‘‘regulate ourselves into a corner.’’

Last week, as he was passing through the region, Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud announced consultation was set to begin on a mandatory code of conduct for the dairy industry, aimed at improving the fairness of negotiations between farmers and processors.

Mr Littleproud revealed the government had begun formal consultations on a mandatory code of conduct, hoping to help ‘‘deliver real reform for the dairy industry.’’

But he stressed this alone would not ‘‘fix the dairy industry.’’

A statement from the minister’s office said the code would ‘‘address the imbalance in bargaining power between farmers and processors.’’

Mr Marshall said he would ‘‘love to see the value of the product we produce recognised’’ but that that would be achieved ‘‘through market-driven forces.’’

‘‘I hope they do look into the supermarket process side of things too, I think the whole supply chain needs to be address.’’

‘‘I still think we probably need to be careful that we don’t regulate ourselves into a corner as well,’’ he said, favouring ‘‘some freedoms’’ in ‘‘the choice of supply, the choice of contract and an individual right to negotiate my own contract.’’

‘‘(These) are some things that are important to me as part of any framework they develop.’’

Mr Littleproud said issues with the dairy industry were now being addressed.

‘‘Yesterday I announced with the dairy industry the start of the consultation the mandatory code of conduct,’’ he said on Thursday.

‘‘That’s an important step and we’ll have a granular look and lens on what that mandatory code looks like by Christmas.’’

‘‘And then the regular impact statement will be finalised to make sure there’s no unintended consequences at the farm gate.’’

‘‘But we’re committed to moving for that, the industry themselves... Australian dairy farmers, say they want it, so it’s my job to facilitate it and make sure we can legislate it,’’ he said.

Mr Littleproud said he was ‘‘putting the foot to the accelerator and getting it done’’, stressing it had to be undertaken in a ‘‘methodical way that doesn’t have an unintended consequence.’’

‘‘And that’s why we’re working quickly to consult and make sure by Christmas everyone knows what that looks like...’’

Mr Littleproud stressed supermarkets had ‘‘some responsibility in this.’’

He marked the start of formal consultations at a visit to dairy farmers in Shepparton last week.

‘‘The dairy industry came to me with a united position that it wanted a mandatory code of conduct,” Mr Littleproud said.

‘‘I’ll deliver it.

‘‘Consultations will occur across Aussie dairy regions and I want all dairy farmers, processors and people interested about the future of dairying in this country to get involved.

‘‘The code will help make negotiations and contract arrangements between farmers and processors fairer and more transparent and include a dispute resolution process.

‘‘However this alone will not fix the dairy industry or increase farm gate prices... real structural reform is needed.’’

Consultations are set to occur across Australia’s dairy farming regions.