Election push for a dairy commissioner

By Country News

Dairy industry advocacy group Dairy Connect said the creation of a federal dairy commissioner must be on the agenda in the lead-up to the federal election.

The group said it had become increasingly apparent that dairy producers need external support in their increasingly complex dealings with government and stakeholders.

Dairy Connect chief executive officer Shaughn Morgan said a federal dairy commissioner would provide a channel to relevant federal ministers and the government.

‘‘Importantly, the role would co-ordinate the differing priorities of the states and to liaise with state dairy counterparts,’’ Ms Morgan said.

‘‘In NSW, for example, that would mean working closely with the about-to-be-appointed NSW Fresh Milk and Dairy Advocate, following the commitment by the NSW Government and opposition in the lead-up to the March 2019 (state) election.’’

The group is calling on a commissioner to tackle issues including the ongoing impact of drought, increasing energy prices, high fodder costs, milk supply agreements and the implementation of a mandatory dairy code.

The group said other ideas raised in the NSW Parliamentary Report into the Sustainability of the NSW Dairy Industry last year could be considered, including providing arbitration and dispute resolution support for producers in negotiations with dairy processors, providing advice to producers wishing to engage in collective bargaining where appropriate and helping producers to understand and negotiate milk supply agreements.

‘‘Conducting annual reviews of the dairy industry and an assessment of farm gate milk prices compared with the costs of production and reporting on market challenges identified by producers should also be considered as part of a commissioner’s role,’’ Ms Morgan said.

She said the low sale price of dairy goods and structural reform should also be tackled.

‘‘The federal dairy commissioner’s role would be different to that of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

‘‘Where the ACCC would be providing oversight and compliance with a mandatory code, a federal dairy commissioner would be taking a broader approach to supporting the dairy value chain.’’