It is back to the drawing board for the dairy industry now plans for an all-in-one dairy body will not move forward, but there are still lessons to be learned according to UDV president Paul Mumford.
The single dairy body was a key recommendation of the Australian Dairy Plan, but was ultimately too «ambitious» according to Dairy Australia chair James Mann.
Instead, the six state dairy farming bodies have been invited onto a working group to «consider how to optimise policy and advocacy» at the national and state levels.
Mr Mumford, who farms at Won Wron, said the organisations behind the plan had «done their due diligence» by investigating the idea of an all-in-one model after a groundswell of interest in the idea 18 months ago.
But he still said he was not surprised it crumbled.
“It’s unachievable for the current climate,” Mr Mumford said.
“We shouldn’t throw all the information gathered by the plan out, but it’s not relevant right now.”
Mr Mumford said one of his suggestions at the working group was going to be the importance of the UDV.
“We need to look at the big picture here,” he said.
“The industry is only as good as it’s strong, advocating voice.
“We’ve got a conference coming up in May . . . these questions about improvements will come to the forefront.
“There will be resolution of the conflict inside the UDV.
“I encourage all members to attend.”
The all-in-one strategy left its mark on the UDV after it creating internal conflict and resulted in two senior members resigning in protest.
UDV no. 3 branch manager and Strathmerton dairy farmer Greg Brooks said he disagreed with the plan as soon as he read it and was happy to see it binned.
“It was a farce to start with, we are skirting around the edges,” Mr Brooks said.
“The dairy plan needs to be a platform, a united voice, where we can negotiate with the processors.”
Mr Brooks said the industry was starting to “get a glimpse of things” with platforms, such as Milk2Market.
“All I need to be able to do as a farmer is say ‘this is how much it’s costing me, here’s my margin’ and offer that to the processor,” he said.
“I should be pressuring the processor, so the bottom ones drop out and the good ones get better.”
Mr Brooks said all the objectives of the plan – more farmers, more milk, better farms – would solve themselves if milking became profitable again.
“At the moment other farmers are my competition . . . if we had a platform, we could help each other,” he said.
“The idea of a co-op was a good idea once, but it almost needs to be at the farm gate now.”
Mr Mann pointed to restrictions around the use of levies as one of the reasons the one-body plan would not progress.
“After extensive consultation, it is clear that restrictions prevent the use of levies for agri-political activity and that an all-in-one industry model is unable to address the priority of a stronger and more unified industry voice, as it cannot accommodate the requirement for independent representation,” Mr Mann said.
The Australian Dairy Plan has been developed by four partner organisations – Australian Dairy Farmers, Australian Dairy Products Federation, Dairy Australia and Gardiner Dairy Foundation.
It is the first time key organisations representing the whole dairy supply chain have worked together to deliver a single set of national priorities for the industry.
The UDV conference will be held on May 28 at ZINC in Melbourne’s Federation Square.