MAJOR industry crisis, rebel lobby groups and restructure — David Inall has lived it all. By: SIMONE SMITH
As the former Cattle Council chief executive, Meat and Livestock Australia/Livecorp livestock export manager and US United Egg Producers senior vice president, he’s dealt with the infamous live export suspension and the avian influenza crisis — the US single biggest animal disease emergency.
This isn’t his first rodeo.
And although it has been a while since he worked in dairy — his first job out of university was with the NSW Dairyfarmers Association pre-deregulation — he understands the challenges, opportunities and risks.
“I’d always had in the back of my mind if there was an opportunity to get back into the dairy industry I would grab it,” Mr Inall said.
“I like the connection with (the Australian Dairy Industry Council), I like the fact there is a formal structure that allows for the producer sector and processing sector to sit around the table and find those areas where they can agree and help move the industry forward,” he said.
Mr Inall said this structure allowed for relationship building, something he describes as a “seatbelt” in times of crisis. “I was working at the Cattle Council during the live export shutdown. Having those relationships and being able to talk to different people through the supply chain, knowing who was involved having built some rapport with those people is just critical.”
Although he spent the past five years in the US, Mr Inall knows times have been challenging for Australian dairy. He wouldn’t be drawn on how the dairy crisis had been handled, but said there “is some disgruntled people in the industry, I need to say that for what it is, but I do believe there is some green shoots coming out.”
Modernising ADF, “hitting the refresh button”, is his aim and he wants an organisation that is “nimble” which can “grab those big issues (such as) energy prices) … build strategic alliances with other like-minded industries that operate in Canberra.”
Spending more time in Canberra lobbying with a united voice is a priority. “At the moment the dairy industry is not as visible in Canberra as it needs to be, ” he said. ADF only has 281 direct members but Mr Inall felt the state lobby groups were all on board.
“The bottom line is politicians just want to hear one united voice coming forward,” he said. “Where it falls over is if there’s a multitude of messages going there, an opportunity for politicians to cherrypick what suits their agenda.”
“WHAT I learnt in the US and I think it’s a bit of American culture as well … they don’t sweat the small stuff,” he said. “American agricultural lobby groups, they have an objective in mind they want to achieve and they just bulldoze to that point. They really don’t get caught up too much in ongoing discussions and overdoing committee work. I’m going to do what I can to help with the culture of ‘let’s not sweat the small stuff, let’s set a plan and deliver on it.”
Setting policy fast — a requirement of the egg industry — is something Mr Inall hopes to bring to dairy. With only 150 commercial-size egg farmers in the US, compared to more than 6000 dairy farmers in Australia, he said there would obviously be some challenges but he didn’t want to lose focus of the end goal.
Drawing on experience from the live export crisis and the avian influenza disaster, Mr Inall said remaining calm, using a stepwise approach and partnerships were key.
In both of the crises there was “minute-by-minute” communication with membership and this was possible due to the respect built with members, he said. “(With) avian influenza we had daily conference calls with the membership with 300 lines open and 10 people sitting around each line. Maybe 3000 people on teleconferences and lots of our members going through depopulation of their birds. They were coming on even knowing thousands of people were listening, and openly and willingly sharing their experience to help others.”
ASKED about the rise of Farmer Power in Western Victoria, Mr Inall said the scrutiny was good and kept the “organisation pressure tested.”
“Throughout my career I’ve been involved in industries, different groups emerged feel the national body isn’t representing their views,” he said. “I think they are mostly well meaning and I think usually their membership are hard working people who maybe have a different way of going about it … I will happily talk to anybody in the industry.”
ADF took on $1.125 million from processors over three years when it restructured in 2012. “We view that as a fee for service, in working with our ADIC partners in delivering that service on behalf of the wider industry. Do we need to do a better job in explaining what that money is about? I’ll say yes. I can assure you the way we operate here is there is no compromise the way we deliver value for farmers.”
ADF is celebrating 75 years and Mr Inall said “one dairy one voice” was a key theme. ADF is reviewing its constitution led by president Terry Richardson, “a springboard into a discussion around what the best structure is for ADF”. A strategic plan out to 2020 is also taking shape. ADF will review the findings of the Victorian dairy advocacy review team report, incorporating any relevant national learnings. But the immediate challenge is to deliver value for members. Mr Inall said there was a “fantastic body of work” on animal health, welfare, trade, market access and labour that could be leveraged. He said Australia possibly had one of the world’s best dairy sustainability frameworks and this as well as dairy’s nutritional qualities, and animal welfare standards were opportunities for the industry to promote its virtues.
Source: The Weekly Times