It’s three years since Australian dairy farmers last voted in a levy poll to
determine the level of contribution to Dairy Australia, the industry’s research and development body. Levy payers at that time approved the proposed
levy increase of 10 per cent, but it was clear that the process was costly and distracting.
The 2012 levy poll process included over 50 meetings, took more than 15 months to complete, and cost in excess of $750,000 in levy funds. The time and
money could have been better directed to delivering farm dollar value to dairy farmers.
In the wake of that poll, levy payers, Australian Dairy Farmers (ADF) and industry stakeholders agreed there must be a better way. The Dairy Australia
board agreed to a review that will simplify the levy poll process reduce costs and retain farmer’s rights to be consulted about changes to the levy.
The six-member independent Dairy Levy Poll Process Review Panel delivered its report earlier this year, with unanimous recommendations for a more streamlined,
cost-effective dairy levy poll process. The panel’s primary recommendation is that a poll only be conducted when a change in the levy or the levy process
is sought. In other words, “no poll if no change”.
This doesn’t mean that levy payers or industry won’t have a say. It’s also not about removing Dairy Australia from scrutiny. The report recommends a vital
“failsafe” mechanism where farmers can initiate a poll, if they believe it’s necessary.
If levy payers believe a poll is necessary, they can initiate one by bringing together a group of levy payers representing at least 15 per cent of levy votes.This would activate a Dairy Australia General Meeting where 50 per cent of voters would need to resolve to hold a poll.
The critical thing for Australia’s dairy farmers is that to move to “no poll if no change”, we need to impress on the Federal Government that this proposition
has broad industry support.
ADF is consulting with dairy levy payers, to ensure all are aware of the proposed changes and have the opportunity to make their thoughts known and have
any questions answered.
We’re asking the question of dairy farmers at field days, processor events and State Dairy Farming Organisation meetings.
Starting in October 2015 there will be a simple poll of levy payers, asking for either a “Yes” or “No” vote in support of the independent panel’s recommendation
to change the levy poll process. If the change is supported, ADF will take this endorsement to the Federal Government – specifically the Agriculture
Minister – and we could see this change legislated before the 2017 levy poll is due.
This is not about limiting scrutiny of Dairy Australia. In addition to the “failsafe” recommendation, Dairy Australia will still be subject to independent
review every five years. What we want is a sensible, cost-effective way to get the best value from the levy. Dairy farmers have that opportunity in
front of them, and it can be realised with a simple show of support, right now.