AUSTRALIA’S peak dairy farmer lobby group has been branded “embarrassing” and ineffective by stakeholders responding to a major advocacy review. By: PETER HUNT
More than 60 stakeholders — from farmers, to other peak industry group and dairy industry leaders — told the Dairy Advocacy Reform Team dairy advocacy was plagued by infighting and self-interest.
“ADF (Australian Dairy Farmers) board in recent times has been ineffective with too much infighting, too many egos, too many power plays, too much tension and argument, a lack of unity, too much turnover in leadership,” one key stakeholder said.
Stakeholders were also critical of the ongoing conflict between lobby groups, highlighting the “lack of trust” between the Victorian Farmers Federation and its dairy arm the United Dairyfarmers of Victoria and that both were “largely invisible locally”.
The DART team was formed in April by the UDV, VFF and ADF in a bid to review the advocacy model, with its recommendations due to be put to the Victorian Farmers Federation’s board yesterday.
One option discussed within the industry is to carve the United Dairyfarmers off the VFF into a separate entity, serviced by the VFF.
However, most of the stakeholders called for greater unity and transparency from their dairy lobby groups, not division.
Stakeholders responding to the DART review also took a swipe at industry leaders pursuing political careers.
“Having ADF, VFF (Victorian Farmers Federation) and UDV (United Dairyfarmers of Victoria) people go off on a political career is not a good look,” stakeholders said.
“It puts people off. It’s just seen as a stepping stone, looking out for themselves rather than representing industry.”
Former ADF president David Basham resigned during his term, earlier this year, to gain Liberal Party preselection for the South Australian seat of Finniss. In 2015 UDV president Adam Jenkins lost a preselection battle for the seat of Polwarth and his fellow UDV councillor Roma Britnell won preselection and the Victorian seat of South-West Coast.
VFF president David Jochinke said there needed to be greater transparency across lobby groups, from the VFF to the nation’s peak commodity councils, such as ADF.
“We’re looking at how we can put some performance measures in place so everyone can see the value of their membership,” Mr Jochinke said. “And we need to have a better working relationship.”
Details of the DART review have been sent to ADF and UDV councillors.
One of the key issues identified was the high cost of UDV membership, leading for calls to cap fees.
Dairy farmers pay a UDV levy of 0.08 cents a litre, no matter how much milk they produce, with about 20 per cent of members paying more than $3200 a year.
ADF chief executive David Inall said in the past the peak dairy group had not been as visible as it should have been.
“We are in the midst of developing our organisation’s three-year strategic plan, where we will align the organisation’s vision with a plan that delivers outcomes for the industry; this is a work in progress,” Mr Inall said.
Source: The Weekly Times