New year good news for dairy farmers, Broken River irrigators and NSW orchardists

By Rodney Woods

Australian dairy farmers, Broken River irrigators and Riverina horticulture producers are glad the new year has begun, with changes made to help them while the chips are down.

2020 will deliver a fairer go for the more than 5000 Australian dairy farmers who now have more sway with processors under the dairy industry's Mandatory Code of Conduct which came into effect on January 1.

Federal Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie said the dawning of a new decade would be a milestone event in the rich history of Australian dairy, with the code delivering transparency and certainty for the industry and more support for dairy farmers.

“New Year’s Day marks the beginning of a new era of empowerment for Australian dairy farmers with a code designed by farmers for farmers, coming into place,” Senator McKenzie said.

“Under the code, farmers will never again be held to ransom by processors — if a dairy farmer has held up their end of the bargain then the processor has to uphold theirs.

“The code bans retrospective step-downs and tightly defines circumstances under which a prospective step-down may occur.

“This includes giving the dairy farmer the right to freely terminate the contract within 21 days in the rare instance of a prospective step-down notification.

“There’s also a tough new cop on the beat for dairy, as the code provides increased powers for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission with the introduction of civil penalties and a new dispute resolution process.”

Broken River irrigators were given an early Christmas present, when Victorian Water Minister Lisa Neville announced temporary changes to rules in the Broken system to provide more water for critical stock and domestic needs over the next six months.

“Some people in the Broken system do not have access to enough water for critical human needs this year, which is why we are helping them out with a temporary qualification of rights to provide access to water,” Ms Neville said.

There is currently enough water to operate the Broken system this year and any water allocations carried over from last season can be delivered, but seasonal allocations for high-reliability water shares in the Broken system are currently zero and are not expected to increase this season unless conditions turn wet.

These changes also took effect on January 1, and will remain in place until June 30, unless the seasonal determination against high-reliability water shares reaches 50 per cent.

Also from January 1, Riverina horticultural producers will receive more support to resolve labour shortages following the signing of a new Horticulture Industry Labour Agreement.

The new agreement means growers will now have access to a skilled and semi-skilled workforce to ensure fruit and vegetables are harvested, packaged and delivered in a timely matter.