Not per­fect but a good start

Dairy News Australia - - OPINION -

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.

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