New dairy code review to strengthen industry

By Nathan Calman on
22 March 2024

TasFarmers played a pivotal role in shaping the Dairy Industry Code to its current form, ensuring it reflects the needs and concerns of the Australian dairy industry. As the consultation period for the current review continues until the 5th of April, we encourage further feedback and engagement from all stakeholders to strengthen the Code's effectiveness and relevance. This review period offers a critical opportunity to address existing challenges, enhance transparency, and promote fairness across the dairy supply chain. Your input is invaluable in shaping the future of the industry.

The inception of the Dairy Industry Code in 2020 marked a significant milestone in rectifying the imbalances and inadequacies that plagued our industry for far too long. Designed to uphold minimum standards of conduct and foster constructive business relationships, the Code aimed to instil trust, openness, and transparency throughout the supply chain. However, the first review of the Code in 2021, while affirming its overall effectiveness, highlighted several areas necessitating refinement and enhancement.

One of the primary recommendations from the initial review was the need to clarify the definition of 'minimum price' under the Code. It is imperative that deductions related to milk quality do not undermine the integrity of the minimum price requirements. Moreover, the inclusion of an exemption to allow participation in alternative milk pricing markets, subject to mutual agreement, is a step towards promoting flexibility and adaptability within the industry. As these recommendations undergo further consultation, it is paramount to ensure that any amendments align with the best interests of all stakeholders, particularly our hardworking dairy farmers.

Furthermore, the call for additional guidance material to aid compliance with the Code underscores the importance of clarity and accessibility in navigating its provisions. Collaboration between the Australian Government and industry stakeholders is crucial in developing comprehensive guidance that addresses the complexities of dairy operations while upholding the principles of fairness and accountability.

The ongoing review also presents an opportunity to delve into areas identified for potential improvements, including contract extensions, small business definitions, MSA variation requirements, non-exclusive contract arrangements, and minimum prices in multi-year contracts. By delving into these intricacies, we can cultivate a regulatory framework that not only safeguards the interests of dairy farmers but also fosters a resilient and competitive industry ecosystem.

In addition to the recommendations outlined in the first review, it is commendable that dairy industry representative bodies have advocated for the inclusion of further topics such as cooling-off periods and unsigned contracts. These issues are indicative of the nuanced challenges faced by stakeholders and merit careful consideration to ensure comprehensive coverage within the Code.

As stakeholders, we have a collective responsibility to contribute constructively to this review process. By offering our insights, experiences, and perspectives, we can shape a Dairy Industry Code that not only meets regulatory standards but also serves as a beacon of fairness, resilience, and sustainability for generations to come.