Dairy Australia may become the target of blame if the industry restructure under the Australian Dairy Plan does not meet farmer expectations, a new report has found.
The review of Dairy Australia was largely positive about the organisation funded by government and industry levy payers.
But it did draw attention to some concerns.
The report pointed out that many farmers don’t appreciate the different between service provision that DA provides and advocacy delivered by organisations like Australian Dairy Farmers and the UDV.
“When farmers pay levies, it is with an expectation of full-service delivery and returns in all of the areas important to them,” the report said.
“One of the ADP objectives is ‘Unity’.
“There is a possibility that the aspirations of many dairy farmers for the industry to have a single entity will prove to be challenging, with a number of different stakeholders to be aligned for this to happen.”
The independent review has concerns that if levy payer desires are not met, the unjustified responsibility pointed at Dairy Australia could be significant.
The consultants who did the review suggested a sustained, consistent communication campaign around dairy reform was important for transparency to industry and to manage expectations, and needs to be delivered with strong spokespeople from relevant industry bodies.
“It needs to be clear to levy payers that this is an industry initiative and not one of Dairy Australia alone,” the report said.
Anwen Lovett of Anwen Lovett Consulting, who completed the performance review together with Ancer Consulting, said the review had looked across Dairy Australia’s operations and governance.
“The overall finding of this independent review is very positive,” Ms Lovett said.
“Dairy Australia is an effective, outcomes-focused organisation with a strong service culture to the Australian dairy industry.
“It is managed by professional people who care about what they do.
“There is strong and appropriate governance and a healthy focus on continuous improvement of structures, systems and processes.”
Dairy Australia chair James Mann said he was encouraged by the review’s findings, while recognising some opportunities to do things better.
“We see real value in this being a genuinely independent assessment of our organisation,” Mr Mann said.
“The review is based on feedback from all our industry stakeholders, including many farmers as well as representative bodies.”
On communications with levy payers, the review found communication should target both the engaged and those who are more critical of the
services the organisation delivers.
Dairy Australia’s major research and development partnerships are assets for the dairy industry, the report found, but prioritisation and benefits are not well understood by farmers and the industry, and should be better communicated in the context of regions and production systems.