Combating animal activists top of UDV conference agenda

By Geoff Adams

The Labor Party’s proposal for a floor price for milk was cautiously welcomed by national dairy advocacy groups at the UDV Conference in Melbourne on Friday.

Although some reservations were expressed about how it would work, most of the state-based groups expressed the thought that the adoption of a policy by the ALP was a sign that the party was interested in dairy, and the groups were interested to see where the proposal went, if Labor made it into government.

UDV vice-president John Keely warned there were some practical difficulties in setting a floor price when there was such a wide range in the cost of production, even within states.

Queensland Dairy Organisation chair Eric Danzi said it was interesting to see the ALP was taking the dairy industry seriously and trying to do something to assist.

West Australian Farmers dairy chair Michael Partridge said the present system was not working so the group supported an investigation into new system.

VFF president David Jochinke warned conference delegates of the emergence of animal rights groups and their impact on farming.

He said the VFF had been active in running forums prior to last year’s Victorian state election, but since then there had been very little action from the government on the issues discussed at the election.

Mr Jochinke urged farmers to look out for each other, to take care with farm safety and to not be afraid to ask for help.

Five uniformed Victoria Police officers were stationed in the foyer of the conference venue at the MCG. Speculation abounded they were there in case of protest action by an animal activist group.

The conference carried a motion urging changes to food labelling which would limit the use of the word ‘milk’ to the products of mammals.

The Colac branch successfully put a motion to the meeting arguing that food labelling had become misleading and other products were trading off milk’s reputation.

‘‘The average consumer is led to believe that consuming a plant-based product has the same nutritional value as milk from a mammal,’’ the motion from the branch said.

About 160 people attended the annual conference, which discussed pricing, advocacy effectiveness and membership.

New South Wales Dairy chair Erika Chesworth said the dairy industry had fallen behind in food innovation.

‘‘Look at the dairy cabinet,’’ Ms Chesworth said.

‘‘There is very little innovation. We need new products. We need to be the next smart industry.

‘‘I think it’s our job to be courageous and come with some innovation. Because where we are is not good.’’