Not perfect but a good start
THE NEW Dairy Industry Code of Practice has its critics, but it’s a good start to address problems that were spiralling out of control.
The voluntary code for milk contracts aims to ensure greater transparency and fairness in milk supply and pricing.
The code has been signed by the majority of milk processors, and covers most milk supplied through the country.
Some, including Farmer Power, say it’s not worth the paper it’s written on as it’s a voluntary code.
We disagree. The code is an acknowledgement by processors of certain standards (some would say bleedingly obvious standards, and we agree with that too) that must be upheld.
Under the code, processors must supply a clearer price, which farmers have wanting for many years.
They must act more professionally in offering written contracts if not offering farmers on fixed term contracts a further fixed term. No more of the ‘see how she goes’ approach, which was ridiculous with the amount of money at stake.
Farmers also have the ability to sell excess milk if their processor does not want it, giving farmers more control.
The code is also aligned with unfair contracts legislation and has been developed in partnership with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and the Small Business Ombudsman, giving it further weight.
The application of the code by processors over the next 12 months will be critical.
There has been much talk of transparency over the past 12 months. If processors treat the code in any way than in the spirit in which it is intended, the goodwill extended by farmers would be damaged irreparably.
Relationships between farmers and processors are at their lowest ebb; worse than many senior executives and middle management even realise (although brutally honest discussions with their field staff would help shed some light).
Applying this code to all future contract negotiations must be an absolute priority.