Marian McDonald was a gusty woman when she took on the family farm in 2008. She bought a refreshing feistiness to dairy conversations. She is a champion of the grass roots, is not afraid to tackle the tough issues in her blog MilkMaid Marian, she asks the questions that need to be asked of people who should have the answers and she has the courage of her convictions
Today she gives her thoughts on John Mulvaney’s opinion piece in The Weekly Times in her post Disillusioned Dairy
The leadership challenge of the Australian dairy industry has increased to a level that I believe is insurmountable without significant government intervention. I am not a supporter of government intervention.
Unfortunately, the time has come.
The hubris of the board and senior executives of MG ( Murray Goulburn) has left the Victorian dairy industry – and by association, the Australian dairy industry – without a guiding rudder. The Victorians are at sea and going nowhere and are hoping for tides or winds to take them.
Put simply, the end of the era of co-operatives has allowed the processors to control the industry. Presently, there is no unity between the farmers and the processors. Many will blame the supermarkets but the numbers don’t support that view. It is not Colesworth.
The leadership challenge is within the industry itself. Specifically, the leadership challenge is with the farm sector of the dairy industry.
The ship is at sea, rudderless.
It is tawdry to note that the current Chairman of the ADF is also an ex-chairman and I believe a current Director of WCB. Another Director is from Fonterra. Most of the ADF’s budget is channelled through the processors. Clearly, the processors control the farmer’s representative body.
Mike comes from an industry with a highly successful farmer leadership lobby model in Cotton Australia. As a former Chairman of the Board of the Cotton Research and Development Corporation he bought a breath of fresh air, a wealth of experience and drive and like Marian feistiness to the dairy industry.
In his opinion piece Mike proffers the following solutions
What should the ADF do?
The ADF is the focal point of the leadership challenge. The ADF needs to reform itself into a functional & efficient dairy farmer representative body.
What should the Government do?
The government is rightly reluctant to interfere in industry policy and strategy. Governments all hope to be guided by an industry with a unified approach to the challenges of the future. When governments are forced into these positions they usually deliver blunt and inelegant solutions. Often, there are deleterious impacts from the unintended consequences of government interference in industry policy.
The Government is now at a point where it has to assume that role. The government has to free up the relationship between the farmers and the processors by addressing the focal point of the relationship – the contracts.
You can read the full piece here It makes one hell of a lot of sense
My thoughts on farmer leadership in dairy?
As some-one who did put their hand up for roles on farmer lobby groups I agree with Marian. We wear out our champions. The majority of us are under-prepared from a governance, negotiation skills and general whole of supply chain knowledge capacity to make the changes required. I was one of those under-prepared. ADF has some fresh blood and now has funding to build leadership capacity for our farmers. I look forward to them using it wisely. I look forward to our farmers seeking out the successful models, asking the right questions, being prepared to listen and feeling confident they have the skills and the support of their fellow farmers to take the Australian Dairy Industry to the heights it deserves
Added note. Another hugely successful farmer lobby group model is Farmers for Climate Action I know why this model works so well. It would be a very exciting day if Australian dairy farmers embraced this model. Look out world