New year marks a new era for dairy industry

By Rodney Woods

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 took effect from 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."

Senator McKenzie said pressure also needed to be applied to the supermarkets, with Australians on the record as saying they’re okay to pay more for milk as long as the extra cents go back to the farmer.

“Good returns and good retail prices for milk will encourage investment but, to see this, we need the retail price of private label milk to be lifted," she said.

"Supermarkets are telling us that we are going to have to pay more for fruit, vegetables and meat as the drought drives prices up.

"They need to do the same for dairy."