Dairy Connect has called for a full-time independent statutory NSW Dairy and Fresh Food Commissioner to be appointed.
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A full-time position overlooking the dairy and fresh food sectors has been promised by NSW Labor.

It comes after NSW Opposition leader Jodi McKay announced her party’s commitment to appoint one, should they win government in the next election.

“Our dairy farmers deserve better than a part-time dairy advocate,” the NSW Labor leader said.

“They need a commissioner with statutory powers to assist the industry and make a real difference independent of government.”

Dairy Connect chief executive officer Shaughn Morgan voiced strong support for the idea, calling for it to be implemented by dairy states Australia-wide.

The body called on an independent commissioner to develop an effective mediation and arbitration process for NSW fresh food and dairy farmers in consultation with the relevant NSW industry groups, including the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, in conjunction with the mandatory dairy code; enforcement of a ‘truth in labelling’ policy for fresh food and dairy; and develop a uniform national standard to deliver consistency in testing, sampling and the calibration of equipment used in fresh milk production to ensure a fair farm price.

“A state Dairy and Fresh Food Commissioner could anchor critical industry reforms by working in close cooperation with value-chain industry groups,” Mr Morgan said.

“One of the commissioner’s first steps must be to convene a whole-of-industry roundtable including farmers, processors, industry groups and retailers to address the systemic issues underpinning dairy and fresh food commodity groups.”

Dairy Connect believes an outcome of industry consultation by the commissioner with farmers would be to review best practice business models, review contractual agreements and plans for long-term industry sustainability, better competition and farmer succession planning.

Dairy Connect Farmers Group president Graham Forbes said such an appointment would continue the restoration of trust, balance and transparency that is required within the dairy industry.

“A NSW Commissioner for Dairy and Fresh Food to act as an arbiter and adviser to the dairy industry on their rights and responsibilities in commercial relationships,” Mr Forbes said.

“The commissioner can also provide regular reports to the government and parliament on the state of the NSW dairy industry.”

The role would also investigate ways to provide better access to the Farm Innovation Fund and develop a long-term research and development strategy for the industry.

Dairy Connect, in its submission to the NSW Parliamentary Committee inquiry into the long-term sustainability of the dairy industry in NSW, stated that the current office of the NSW Fresh Milk and Dairy Advocate does not have the necessary authority nor any legislative underpinning to make the position independent of government and to be the conduit between the dairy value-chain and the relevant ministers of the Crown.

Last month, 14 of our dairy farms in Maine, as well as dozens of dairy farms across northern New England, got an unexpected and disappointing notice from Danone of North America saying that they were discontinuing their contracts with our organic dairy farmers in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and elsewhere.

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