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TAS Country : January 5th 2012
Ballot to chart dairy farmers' future SIMONE SMITH talks to Dairy Australia managing director Ian Halliday and Australian Dairy Farmers president and Dairy Levy Poll Advisory Committee chairman Chris Griffin on the levy vote IAN HALLIDAY: Government looks for individual sectors to help support themselves, we leverage farmer levies through other support.'' DAIRY farmers will soon have a vote on how much they want to contribute to industry body Dairy Australia. Some levy payers view this vote as a referendum on how Dairy Australia has performed -- especially because there are only three voting options, and none that will maintain the status quo. Industry representatives stress the ballot is about the future of the industry, including research and development, protecting the right to produce and to sell. Why should farmers vote for the increase? CHRIS GRIFFIN: Because the industry re- quires research and development. We believe it will maintain the services being provided. It's not an increase in services, just maintenance. We believe it's a responsible approach. IAN HALLIDAY: There hasn't been an in- crease since 1997. At the last levy poll in 2007, the industry . . . was going to seek a 15 per cent increase, but environmental conditions and mar- ket conditions deteriorated, so the industry recommended to maintain the current levy. We have now got to a stage [for] the services we are being asked to provide . . . we need that 10 per cent increase. Dairy businesses tighten the finance strings when money isn't available, for example, when milk price drops. Why can't Dairy Australia do the same? CG: Dairy Australia probably try to do it in their management side . . . but the situation is we need research and development as an industry . . . plus the other services provided. We have got to maintain the spend otherwise we just don't get the calibre of people who are required to undertake that work. IH: We did reduce our expenditure quite significantly after the last levy poll. The $5 million [a year] for category marketing . . . we have taken out $1.3 million in the last 18 months to two years and put a new project management system in. CG: This vote is not about Dairy Australia, it is about farmers' commit- ment to research and development as an industry. Unless we are prepared to invest in our own industry, we can't expect governments or others to add to that investment. IH: Government looks for individual sectors to help support themselves, we leverage farmer levies through other support. Would some commercial research -- for example, automatic milking robots and pastures -- have been done without DA assistance? IH: If we weren't seed investors, initial investors, then those others wouldn't come into the market. We are not helping them, it is really about helping the industry. [Automatic milking systems] I think it will help solve a number of issues around the image of dairying and help attract a number of people into the industry. Our investment is not so much around the milk harvesting process, it's around the whole farm management system. CG: On the pastures side, what's being invested in the [Cooperative Research Centre] is groundbreaking. It's all about the cows getting more nutrition out of each mouthful, and the potential for increased productivity off a given area of land is huge. Is Dairy Australia risking a ''no vote'' without having a ''maintain the levy'' option? CG: We considered this in our meetings, but we couldn't see the need to have the ''retain-as-is'' option because it would be reducing services to farmers. As a committee and as an industry, we couldn't condone that approach. I have got a lot of confidence that dairy farmers of Australia, they will make the correct decision here and go with the recommended option. Who was on the levy poll committee? CG: About 20 industry people [15 farmers]. [These farmers are] people prepared to work for the industry's good. They put their hands up in a number of different roles, they are prepared to step outside the farm gate and they have got a strong interest in the industry . . . the farmers around that committee decided what would be on that ballot paper. What was the consultation pro- cess? CG: It was the request made of the committee that [representatives] go out and float some ideas [with farmers]. Originally we were look- ing at 20 per cent [increase] -- and the final figure of 10 [per cent] is what we came down to. IH: For next levy poll, we are more than happy to reconsider the consultation and look for improve- ments. Farmers on the board, were they ADF representatives? IH: It was a combination of ADF representatives, [regional develop- ment program] representatives and some people who weren't on either. A lot of those people have been put into those roles because they are viewed as well-regarded farmers. They have been elected into those positions so they do represent their regions -- their reach and their contact is immense. Is this a question of profitability in the dairy industry? Is some reluctance to vote for the in- crease a reflection that farmers aren't making the type of money they would like to? CG: There is never a right time to ask anybody for an increase. We believe it is a responsible decision. I have confidence that farmers will make it for the long-term viability of the industry. Is the industry catering to the lower portion of farmers with programs --- for example, information on transition feeding, pugging, downer cows and Cool Cows? IH: There are still a number of people from our national dairy farmer survey who do not apply transition-feeding principles. We also know there are a lot of new people coming into the industry. As much as we get criticised for delivery of old programs, we still get requests for information that others consider old. For example, I have had people tell me you should drop Countdown [Downunder]. But everywhere I go, in the top three issues, is mastitis. The reason for mastitis is probably very different to what it was five or 10 years ago, so we should probably continue to refine what was in Countdown. Look at the CRC and automatic milking systems, I think we have a good spectrum. Weekly Times Dairy levy vote Ludwig opts out of levy battle SIMONE SMITH FEDERAL Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig has refused to weigh into the debate over Dairy Australia's levy rise. Senator Ludwig will have the final say if dairy farmers vote to scrap the levy. It is believed there is no legislation to advise the minister what to do if there is a ''no vote''. It is understood that under such a scenario, Dairy Australia would make recommendations in accordance with the results, but any change to the levy would be at his discretion. ''I cannot speculate on what the outcome of the levy poll will be,'' Senator Ludwig said. ''However, the success of Aust- ralia's agricultural industries relies on our producers . . . I am committed to listening to the views of dairy producers and of Dairy Australia, and to supporting a strong, sustainable dairy sector.'' Dairy farmers have three voting choices for the levy poll: a zero levy, a 10 per cent increase or a 15 per cent rise. The decision to omit a ''status quo'' option from the ballot paper has attracted some farmer grief. ''This is not about Dairy Australia, unfortunately it has started to become that way,'' Australian Dairy Farmers president and Dairy Levy Poll Advis- ory Committee chairman Chris Grif- fin said. ''It is a forum about what dairy farmers believe they should be invest- ing in their own industry, their own businesses now and the future of generations to come.'' Mr Griffin and Dairy Australia managing director Ian Halliday said the vote would determine how much money farmers were willing to invest in research and development. DAIRYTAS will be running dairy levy poll information sessions this month. DairyTas executive officer Mark Smith said there would be five infor- mation sessions around Tasmania to provide farmers with up-to-date infor- mation on the levy poll and on relevant investments. The sessions will be run by Dairy Australia and DairyTas. JANUARY 16: Smithton Recreation Centre, 11am. Beachway Motel, Ulverstone, 6.30pm. King Island Club, from 6.30pm. JANUARY 17: Rotary Pavilion, Deloraine, noon. Scottsdale RSL, 6.30pm 4 Tasmanian Country Friday, January 6, 2012 DAIRY SMART FARMING SYSTEM WORKSHOPS "Start the new year working on your business" Is there room for improvement in your farming system? Are you comfortable with your current farm performance? Guest presenter Phil Shannon from Victoria DPI will be speaking about improving farm profitability and productivity, and the key components of a profitable farming system. Topics and outcomes include: • Ways to improve farm profitability and productivity • Gain a better understanding of the key components of a profitable farming system • Analysis of own farm performance • Importance of profit approach • Benefits of benchmarking Workshops will be held during January from 11.00am to 2.00pm, with lunch provided. Workshop dates and locations: Tuesday 17th Jan -- North East, 59 Gregsons Rd, Winnaleah Wednesday 18th Jan -- Deloraine, Dairy Plains Hall Thursday 19th Jan -- Elliott, TIA Dairy Research Facility Tuesday 24th -- Smithton, Circular Head Rec Centre Wednesday 25th -- King Island RSVP to TIA Dairy Centre on 6430 4953. For more information contact Alexis Perez on 0418 876 089, or Alexis.Perez@utas.edu.au. 2034417-120106
December 22nd 2011
January 13th 2012