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Dairy raises the levy bar

22 Mar, 2012 03:00 AM
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TOOLAMBA dairy farmers Ross and Colin Read (pictured) are some of the farmers who voted for the 10 per cent increase.
TOOLAMBA dairy farmers Ross and Colin Read (pictured) are some of the farmers who voted for the 10 per cent increase. "We voted for the increase because we are involved with the focus farm through Murray Dairy and through this we have seen what Dairy Australia can do," Ross said.

THERE has been a mixed reaction from producers across the country on the final outcome of the the 2012 Dairy Australia levy poll, released on Tuesday.

Dairy Australia revealed most Australian farmers preferred the 10 per cent increase in levy funds.

It is the first time in 15 years that dairy farmers will face a rise in levies, with the increase expected to kick in on July 1 this year.

Dairy Australia managing director Ian Halliday described the result as "satisfactory".

He said it would allow the organisation to continue its service program, which allocated funds towards on-farm development and research into pastureproductivity, cow productivity, management of grains and farm systems.

The breakdown saw 54.05pc of votes cast in favour of the 10pc lift, while 6.08pc supported a rise of 15pc.

The third option, no levy at all, attracted 39.87pc of votes.

A total of 43pc of Australian dairy farmers voted in the ballot.

Mr Halliday said he was not fazed by the large percentage of "no" votes or the discontent expressed by farmers at many of the Dairy Poll meetings.

"That is an ongoing challenge – to improve engagement with farmers – and we will continue to build on that," he said.

Much of the controversy began when Dairy Australia failed to include an option in the poll to maintain the current levy.

The organisation justified the decision by stating that "a 10pc increase was the minimum necessary to continue essential programs".

Cooriemungle dairy farmer Alex McKenzie – who voted for the no levy option – was surprised by the results.

"When you travelled aroundand talked to farmers, it was difficult to find anyone who supported an increase," he said.

Mr McKenzie also expressed frustration with the way the votes were allocated, which saw farmers given votes depending on how much milk they produced.

"The 40pc of 'no' votes could actually be 55pc of dairy farmers," he said.

In Mr McKenzie's case, he produces 1.3 million litres and pays $4200 annually to levies.

This entitles him to 4200 votes in the poll.

"But my neighbour gets 50,000 votes because he pays $50,000 in levies," he said.

"The whole system is wrong.

"It should be one vote per farm, and you would get a more realistic account of what farmers wanted."

In response, Mr Halliday said the voting system was in place because "that was the way the organisation and voting entitlements were set up when Dairy Australia was established".

On the other hand, Tasmanian dairy farmer Grant Archer was pleased with the poll results.

Previously on the DairyTas board, he said he had a good understanding of the work Dairy Australia carried out.

"I was in the smaller percentage of people who voted for the 15pc increase but I know the good work they do and there hasn't been an increase since 1997," he said.

Dairy Australia will now forward the results of the ballot and its recommendation to lift the levy by 10pc to Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig, who will then make a formal determination.

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Emily, have U seen what is happening to Chinas peasant farmers in their country? Cleared out and
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Hey it is pretty dumb all unifying together to make good progress if you are headed in the wrong
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jillaroo, how right you are. In fact Australian farmers still supply the lowest priced food