TWELVE months ago, one of my first meetings as newly elected president of the NSW Farmers’ Association (NSWFA) was with several members of our dairy committee who wanted to brief me on their new idea for dairy farmer representation – Dairy Connect.
This group was to unite processors, vendors and farmers. To do this, they would need control of the Graham Park Trust, a sum of money held in trust for the committee by NSWFA.
When asked why a new body was being established, when dairy was a specialist commodity section with full policy autonomy, I was given a long list of failings by NSWFA that appeared to be more personality-based than anything else.
I’m sad to say that, for the past 18 months at least, it appears to me that our committee has been more focused on moving away from NSWFA and accessing the trust funds than on policy issues affecting our members.
Dairy farmers are certainly not alone in the difficult position they now find themselves.
Horticultural producers, in particular, are also experiencing a similar price squeeze.
In my view, it seems an extraordinary time to join with the processors to fight an issue that is arguably being driven by them and the supermarkets.
For this obvious reason, the raw milk pricing issue has been specifically excluded from the “operating principles” of Dairy Connect.
However, a new representative body is a decision for the dairy farmers of NSW, as they decide where best to place the Graham Park Trust.
Like all industry bodies, NSWFA is only as strong as the members and their elected representatives make it.
Compared to the $1 million that the Graham Park Trust holds, NSWFA holds an asset base of
$60 million and represents more than 8000 farm businesses.
For this reason, we will continue to have a dairy committee.
We will continue to speak with a united voice on the big issues that affect our farmers, including pricing issues, native vegetation, mining and coal seam gas issues, biosecurity and industrial relations.
We will continue to stand up for rural and regional communities. The only question is whether dairy farmers will join us on our journey.
President, NSW Farmers’ Association