PEAK DAIRY farmer body Australian Dairy Farmers (ADF) has supported a mandatory code of practice, only six weeks after declaring it would stick to its review of the current voluntary code.
The move surprised the industry but was welcomed by many State farm groups, Farmer Power, dairy farmers and Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud.
The Australian Dairy Products Federation (ADPF) said it was ‘disappointed’ with the decision.
The ADF said a future mandatory code must:
include an independent dispute resolution procedure, with small claims to be investigated
outlaw retrospective milk price step downs
enforce contract and price transparency
be reviewed within three years, including an assessment of the code’s effectiveness
In a statement, the ADF said it was a difficult decision and one that it “did not take lightly”.
“There are a broad range of views within ADF’s membership and these views are deeply respected and understood,” it said.
The ADF warned there are still issues to be resolved around the implementation of a mandatory code.
The competition watchdog, in recommending a mandatory code, didn’t disclose the costs of administration, investigation thresholds, performance standards and accountability metrics.
The ADF will urge the Government to address these concerns through a Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS), to be disclosed to industry as soon as possible.
“It’s hoped the introduction of a mandatory code will be a vital step in rebuilding trust and confidence along the dairy industry supply chain,” the ADF said.
The ADPF, which represents the Australian milk processing and manufacturing companies, said it was “disappointed” but was “committed to achieving positive, beneficial outcomes for the industry”.
It said work had been done to update the existing voluntary Dairy Industry Code of Practice to deliver a set of guidelines for negotiating milk price between farmers and processors in good faith, and establish a dispute resolution mechanism.
“We hope this can be used as a framework to inform any future code,” the ADPF said in a statement.
Mr Littleproud has welcomed the ADF’s decision.
He told the dairy sector at the end of August to come up with a united position on a mandatory code and the ACCC report into the dairy industry, which was released in April.
“Now that we have direction from the organisation representing dairy farmers across Australia, we can move forward. I agree with ADF that a mandatory code must deliver coverage across the entire industry and improve bargaining power for Australian dairy farmers.
“I will work with farm groups to get this code right.”
Mr Littleproud said while a mandatory code should improve bargaining power it is unlikely to change milk prices.
“The ACCC report stated the farmers were at a disadvantage given processors had better access to market information, and that’s something we’re working on through the milk price index. We’ll continue to look carefully at the issues raised in the ACCC report as we work with industry to come up with actions in response to the report.”