“Those of us who have been involved in the agriculture industry for many, many years remember the egregious behaviour of the processors in this sector,” she said.
“In Queensland there are dairy farmers being pushed into five year contracts and not knowing what the price of their produce will be past year one.”
The Coalition, and particularly the Nationals, have been under sustained pressure for more than a year to help dairy farmers who are struggling to make ends meet under the weight of drought which has ratcheted up the cost of water and feed, as well as high electricity costs.
The dairy code empowers the ACCC to enforce the new rules, which include compulsory mediation and civil penalties for contract breaches.
Australian Dairy Farmers chief executive David Inall said it was an “historic day” for the industry.
“Farmers really just want to know someone has got their back. They want to know there is somewhere to go if there is a problem. They didn’t previously have that overseeing cop, and that is there,” Mr Inall said.
Dairy Connect NSW chief executive Graham Forbes welcomed the dairy code, but said more reform was needed to ensure dairying remained viable for family producers.
“We’ve seen a level playing field put out there for farmers now, and it’s the first step in delivering a sustainable industry,” Mr Forbes said.
Labor and One Nation heaped pressure on the Nationals for the past year leading popular calls for the industry to be partially re-regulated.
The Coalition has rebuffed Senator Pauline Hanson’s bid to introduce a bill to set a minimum milk floor price.
Many, but not all, farmers in fresh milk producing states NSW and Queensland want a floor price, while exporters of milk powder from Tasmania and Victoria are have argued the domestic benchmark could make them uncompetitive in global markets.
Senator McKenzie said in November that “setting a minimum farmgate milk price would do nothing to fix the current power imbalance between dairy farmers and processors and would do nothing to drive down input costs”.
Mike is the climate and energy correspondent for The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.