Dairy advocacy must be nimble

Funding of dairy advocacy needs to be fixed says Inall

Making Our Voices Heard News
PANEL MEMBER: Australian Dairy Farmers chief executive David Inall says the challenges facing advocacy are unity, funding and resources.

PANEL MEMBER: Australian Dairy Farmers chief executive David Inall says the challenges facing advocacy are unity, funding and resources.

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Funding of dairy advocacy is pivotal says Australian Dairy Farmers chief executive David Inall.

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Inadequate funding and the inability of lobby bodies to find solutions for global problems afflicting local farmers has shaken confidence in advocacy.

That's the contention of Australian Dairy Farmers chief executive David Inall ahead of his appearance at the Making Our Voices Heard event.

"The pressures the state farming organisations are under and therefore the pressure we're under is that farmers are feeling like we don't have their backs," Mr Inall said.

"Farmers are feeling like we haven't been able to turn that [global dairy downturn] around.

"However, the challenge is ... there's no obvious and immediate solution, so people feel disenfranchised."

The key to a successful advocacy body, he said, was the right funding model.

"If you were to look at how much money has been spent over decades on research and development, and I don't question that for a second, we need to make sure that farmers have the world's latest innovative tools to manage their business, but imagine if only a fraction of that was available for advocacy," he said.

"We would we would be able to spend more time with more resources better understanding issues that are impacting our farmers and what more we could do about them.

"There's a galaxy of issues out there.

"If I think of my working week, it might be an hour on animal welfare, or on an FTA, another hour on milk price and then you get to Friday thinking you've worked on this many issues but all you're really doing is just kind of jumping in and out of them.

"If you had a structure that was much better funded, and had better, direct contact communication back to all dairy farmers, I believe that we would interrogate and prosecute these issues far better than we currently do.

"We can't expect a small portion of farmers to fund what we do here in Canberra."

It was important to adopt a structure that would future-proof the industry.

"It needs to be nimble and we need to be able to move fast," Mr Inall said.

"I'm not pointing the finger at anybody but there are times when we need to make a decision quickly and it has to go out through sub-committees and committees and policy councils.

"While I understand the process, and there has to be governance around decisions, that takes time and it's also expensive.

"I've had times in my career where you have to take a deep breath where a politician or the Prime Minister's office rings you and says, we need to know what 'the industry' thinks about this in a couple of hours.

"You need to be confident with the structures you have in place to make decisions quickly."

Reforming industry advocacy was not without risk.

"I know that we're under time pressure here, the industry's feeling like we need to move quickly, and I totally get it that, but let's not jump too early, let's make sure that whatever model or models are being road-tested," he said.

Mr Inall will join an expert panel at Making Our Voices Heard to discuss agricultural advocacy in Melbourne on October 24. Tickets are available via Eventbrite.

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