Littleproud says dairy code talks start soon

By Country News

Formal consultations on a mandatory dairy code of conduct are set to get under way soon, with hopes a framework can be agreed to before Christmas.

Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud, who was in Shepparton last Wednesday, said he hoped the code could be in place in time for the start of the next milking season.

Dates and locations of consultations will be released shortly, but Mr Littleproud said he was ‘‘putting the foot on the accelerator’’ to get the code planned by Christmas, following drawn-out discussions with processors and industry about the code.

‘‘We want to make sure we get this right,’’ he said.

‘‘We’ve ordered a regulatory impact statement and what that makes sure is that there’s no unintended consequences in implementing this plan, particularly to the farm gate.

‘‘(The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources) have let us down on a couple of things recently in terms of consultation and I’ve made sure that the plan in terms of consultation is a proper one.

‘‘Sitting and listening to farmers ... sitting with processors to make sure we get that right.’’

A mandatory code of conduct was one of the key recommendations in an Australia Competition and Consumer Commission report into the dairy industry handed down in April, which flagged market imbalances and a lack of transparency.

It took more than four months for industry to agree to supporting a mandatory code of conduct, with the Australian Dairy Products Federation and the UDV among those voicing concerns.

‘‘There’s a large interest in getting a mandatory code right, particularly down here in Victoria,’’ Mr Littleproud said.

‘‘We have got to make sure we understand it’s a national market in many respects, but there’s idiosyncrasies right across it and we need to try and work with states like Victoria to make sure there’s no unintended consequences for them.’’

Although labelling it a step in the right direction, Mr Littleproud acknowledged there was more work to be done in dairy.

‘‘I have a personal view that in the practical application of the dairy industry there is an imbalance between the supermarket and the farm gate as well,’’ he said.

‘‘How we work through that is a far broader and harder question to answer.’’