An overwhelming majority of those who cast their votes backed the no change option. This was some 71 per cent of voters who participated. A convincing result such as this can only occur when the alternative options provided are not to the liking of the voters. Possibly more disappointing is the option recommended by LPAC to farmers of an increase of 20pc to the levy only received 15pc of valid voter support. This raises the question whether LPAC was listening to the levy payers and is it the right mechanism to decide levy options in the future?
Some will no doubt say it’s not a judgement on the performance of LPAC, who selected the options, or Dairy Australia, who receives and spends the levy funds, but rather a sign of tough times in the industry. I think this would be a naive and unproductive approach. Farmers have not seen value in their levy and that’s why they have not backed an increase. As farmers are aware the only way to deal with a problem or as we often call it “a stuff up” is to acknowledge the error and deal with it head-on. That’s what industry needs to do right now. Let’s put on the listening ears and take direction from the most important people in the industry, the levy paying dairy farmers.
What eastAUSmilk will be taking from this result is not the opportunity to tear down individuals or organisations who seem to have lost their way as farmer representatives in recent years and through the entire levy poll process, but rather a much-needed circuit breaker to wipe the slate clean and get it right from now on.
There are two vital questions for all industry bodies not just Dairy Australia to answer very soon. Is LPAC the best way to set future levy options and have the levy funds been spent in the best interests of the farmers who pay the levy?