QUEENSLAND Dairy Organisation delivered a strong message on behalf of Scenic RIm dairymen at a senate hearing in Canberra on June 19.
Federal senators from Queensland including Pauline Hanson, Susan McDonald and Matthew Canavan attended the hearing into the performance of Australia's Dairy Industry and its profitability since deregulation.
One of the topics up for discussion was the Dairy Code of Conduct, which came into effect on January 1.
Roadvale dairy farmer Gary Wenzel said since then there had been clear breaches of the code, which allowed farmers to review processors' pricing and contracts every year as well as giving them the option to supply milk to more than one customer.
"I believe the code needs to be fine tuned dramatically... it doesn't have teeth as it is," he said.
"Most processors will only do 12 month contracts but one processor is still trying to get suppliers to sign three and five year contracts.
"Farmers were led to believe under the code they would be able to compare prices to get a better deal but if you wanted to think about changing processors that wouldn't be an option with a five year contract.
"Some farmers would like to investigate whether they could supply two processors but the rules around dual supply contracts make that option so unattractive I don't think anyone in Queensland would sign one."
Mr Wenzel said under the longer term contracts processors could only provide milk pricing valid for 12 months.
"If they can't give a price for three or five years, how can they expect anyone to sign a contract for that long?
QDO said the inquiry was instigated in October last year following questions raised by Senator Pauline Hansen around the use of government and levy funds by Dairy Australia.
Queensland Dairy Organisation chief exective Eric Danzi said the senators in attendance were genuinely interested in hearing and understanding more about the concerns, priorities and needs of dairy farmers.
Mr Danzi said physical attendance at the hearing was not compulsory due to COVID-19 but QDO felt that it was imperative to use the opportunity to meet with those politicians who have expressed an active interest in the future of the Australia dairy industry.
"QDO's submission to the Inquiry did not mince words or dance around the topics that were under review," he said.
"The three chief topics in our submission were the current organisational structure and the need for transformational change, the urgent need for a sustainable and fair milk pricing mechanism; and a review of the Dairy Code of Conduct.
Mr Danzi said QDO strongly believed that a single organisation could be responsible for RDE and advocacy so long as it was led by democratically elected representatives who are accountable to the farmers. He said setting up a single body for Queensland and NSW was vital.
"The reactions from Senator Hanson and Senator Sterle (Chair) would indicate that there is support for this system," Mr Danzi said.
"Similarly, there seemed to be strong interest in a wholesale review and amendment to agricultural competition policy. There are several examples within the dairy industry which would suggest that the ACCC cannot protect the interests of farmers when pitted against the bigger players in their supply chain.
"I would hazard that the time is ripe for the establishment of an Agricultural Commission to review and regulate competition policy issues across all agricultural industries.
"We also spoke about QDO's Fairy Go Dairy ® logo scheme which will help shoppers make informed purchases.
Mr Danzi said QDO raised concerns about Code of Conduct non-compliance by some processors.
"We have also put in a complaint to the ACCC and Minister Littleproud and have asked them to investigate and take action," he said.
"The senators were shocked by the apparent blatant disregard of the Code by some processors."
Mr Wenzel said he was pleased the issues had been brought to the attention of government and he hoped it would lead to change.
"Whether they act on these factories that seem to be doing the wrong thing or let it go for another 12 months, let's see if they can change things," he said.