Long-term solutions needed for WA dairy industry

Zach RelphCountryman
Federal Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie in Brunswick during her tour of the South West last week.
Camera IconFederal Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie in Brunswick during her tour of the South West last week. Credit: Zach Relph

The operating problems faced by South West dairy farmers must be considered as part of an ongoing bid to boost the embattled industry, Federal Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie says.

Senator McKenzie met with dairy farmers, including Mike Norton and Phil Depiazzi, at Michael Partridge’s White Rocks farm in Brunswick last Tuesday as part of a day-long South West tour.

Orchestrated by Forrest MHR Nola Marino, whose husband Charlie is a Harvey-based farmer, the meeting focused on the dairy sector’s proposed mandatory code of conduct and major supermarkets’ influence on milk prices.

Following the discussions, Senator McKenzie said South West milk suppliers operated in a “unique market” and faced different challenges from their New South Wales and Victorian counterparts.

“I know a raft of measures our Government has committed to delivering will make a difference here in WA,” she said.

“I’m committed to making sure I continually consult with dairy farmers on the ground here in WA to make sure whatever decisions I’m making as Agriculture Minister on the East Coast take into account the unique position here in the west.”

The Federal Government announced in March it would advance the introduction of a mandatory code of conduct in a bid to lift the industry, with farmers suffering under high operational costs and low milk prices.

It is intended to improve farmers’ ability to switch processors and negotiate better deals, while also prohibiting processors from withholding loyalty payments if a farmer opts to switch processors.

Mr Partridge said he outlined to Senator McKenzie why some draft mandatory code regulations would work in the Eastern States but not WA.

The WAFarmers dairy section president said it was pleasing to meet with Senator McKenzie to shine a light on industry issues.

“Some issues in WA are different to the East Coast, given we are a finite and isolated industry,” he said.

“There is a lot more competition at the farm gate on the East Coast, too.

“The minister understood where we were coming from and that there is no silver bullet to fix everything, but it is always important to have the conversation and have a working relationship with a Federal minister.”

The mandatory code was a key recommendation in the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s dairy inquiry after the dairy oversupply drama of 2016.

It will cover about 87 dairy processors and about 5800 dairy farmers nation-wide once enforced.

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