ADF releases dairy policies

Dairy policies released by Australian Dairy Farmers will be used to lobby MPs leading up to the next federal election. Photo by contributed

The national dairy farmer body will press for tighter restrictions around the marketing of milk substitutes to avoid confusion over the perceived health benefits of alternatives.

Australian Dairy Farmers has launched a comprehensive set of national policy statements on the dairy industry intended to influence the 2022 federal election.

ADF wants to see improved labelling and marketing of plant-based alternatives to dairy products that are more truthful and do not mislead the consumer into thinking they are healthier than dairy.

The policy statement asks for the introduction of a voluntary code that restricts the use of the word ‘dairy’ and, if that is not successful, asks the Federal Government to enforce closer compliance with an international standard on the use of dairy terms.

ADF is concerned some plant-based products are trading off the good name of dairy but without matching nutritional value.

ADF will also be urging political parties to negotiate better international trade agreements to counter a decline in Australia’s share of trade.

“International trade barriers and protectionism is a driver of Australian dairy’s export market decline,’’ the policy statement said.

ADF said Australia was facing trade with countries that subsidised their own farmers and raised trade barriers which disadvantaged Australia.

“It is important that the Australian Government continues to pursue free trade agreements that help the Australian dairy industry diversify and compete in export markets,’’ the policy statement said.

“Australia’s core value is open and free trade and compliance with international trading rules. This should override any trade and geopolitical tension with any other country.”

ADF said Australia’s free trade agreement with Japan was the first the Japanese had completed with a major dairy supply partner.

Since then, Japan has completed bilateral agreements with the European Union and United States, as well as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) agreement, which includes New Zealand.

“These agreements with Australia’s major dairy competitors have more favourable trading terms than the Australian agreement,” ADF said.

The organisation said it was committed to the implementation of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, but it should be delivered to ensure there were no unmanaged and unmitigated third-party impacts from the use of environmental water and negative impacts on regional communities are mitigated.

“Dairy has done much of the heavy lifting in achieving water recovery to date,” the policy statement said.

“As we move forward it is critical that the recommendations of the Productivity Commission’s Murray-Darling Basin Plan: Five-year assessment and the ACCC’s Murray-Darling Water Markets Review are implemented.”

Pushing for political support for policies

The ADF 2022 Federal Election Policy Statement will steer ADF’s advocacy throughout the election. It includes three guiding objectives:

• Improve nutritional health in Australia and abroad;

• Grow jobs and liveability in the regions with planning and investment; and

• Increase sustainability and productivity through innovation and markets.

Under these three objectives there are 14 strategies and 38 actions for political parties to adopt as part of their election policies.

ADF president Rick Gladigau said the upcoming election provided a great opportunity for the Australian dairy industry.

“We need policy settings that support our industry’s economic recovery,” Mr Gladigau said.

“The dairy sector can play a key role in supporting the Australian Government’s COVID-19 recovery and regionalisation agendas, and its pledge to set the foundations for the agriculture sector to grow to $100 billion by 2030.

“The federal election provides a defining moment in the Australian dairy industry’s ability to achieve our sustainability targets.”

ADF chief executive officer David Inall said the focus for ADF early in 2022 would be to meet with key representatives of all major political parties and brief them on this election policy platform.

The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend consumption of milk, cheese and yoghurt across all life stages.

For adults aged 19 to 50 years, at least 2.5 serves a day of milk, cheese, yoghurt and/or alternatives are recommended.

“Unfortunately, most Australians do not consume anywhere near the required amount,” the ADF statement says.

The statement notes a recent survey by University of Melbourne which explored how the food served at aged care facilities impacts the health of residents.

“It specifically investigated how increasing intake of milk, cheese and yoghurt impacted on a variety of health outcomes including fractures and falls.’’

This world-first randomised controlled trial found that increasing dairy intake from two to 3.5 serves per day improved calcium and protein intakes and significantly reduced the risk of falls, all fractures and hip fractures.

The ADF is calling on the Australian Government to develop national mandatory minimal nutritional standards for food provision in residential aged care.

Rural labour shortage plan

Dairy has been hit hard by labour shortages. Photo by Jeanette Servers

ADF has alos developed a seven-point plan aimed at addressing the labour shortage in rural areas.

The statement points out that for many years dairy has suffered from a worker shortage.

The group said age demographics, geographic location, industry culture, infrastructure, housing and attractiveness of other jobs and lifestyle in urban areas had contributed to the problem.

ADF would like to see a $300 million commitment to implement the National Agriculture Workforce Strategy.

Under the strategy, the ADF wants priority allocated to the following initiatives:

1. Establishment of a Workforce Data Unit to aggregate and predict workforce gaps and trends.

2. Establishment of an agriculture passport to capture and retain staff competencies and experience across the sector.

3. Ensuring the education sector partners more strongly with industry to create learning experiences that meet industry development needs.

4. Expanding the Skilling Australians Fund to benefit the whole agri-food workforce.

5. Improving administration of the visa system to recognise the critical skills shortage in dairying and be resourced to improve efficiencies and lower costs to farmers and rural communities.

6. Delivering an agriculture reputation and recognition campaign to promote best practice, create a positive culture and attract new workers to the industry.

7. Establishment of a leading change fund to implement strategically aligned workforce leadership and career development programs.

The new agriculture visa was introduced by the Federal Government in August to resolve critical worker shortages.

The trial, from December 2021 to March 2022, was introduced with about 700 people from South-East Asia.

Labour hire companies are being used to work in partnership with peak bodies and farm businesses to ensure appropriate deployment of labour on-farm.

ADF believes it is critical that an evaluation of the pilot is led by the National Farmers’ Federation to finalise the structure and operation of the agriculture visa.