Dairy producers are in the midst of a protracted period of negotiations with the Australian Government over the future of their products.
The industry, which is already under a $10 billion plan to introduce a dairy product free of additives, is also negotiating with a new government on a proposed “dairy futures” scheme.
The Government, which last year committed $500 million to establish the scheme, says it will help dairy farmers with new product lines, including new products that can be blended with existing products.
“The Government’s decision to create a new program is one that will be well worth considering,” Agriculture Minister Steven Ciobo said.
“We are looking forward to working with the dairy industry to build on the achievements of the past, with more milk and butter for Australia’s families and consumers.”
Dairy products such as milk, cheese and butter have been exempt from the new rules, but producers and their lobbyists have warned that the move could mean a huge disruption to Australian milk and cheese production.
“I think that’s what we’ve got to deal with,” Dairy Farmers of Australia’s CEO Ian Scott said.
“If the Government does take this action, they will be very disappointed, and they will find it extremely difficult to get their way.”
They’ll just take the advice that they’re getting from their industry, the people that work in the dairy and the people who make the milk.
“It’s an incredibly hard situation for them to get through.”
Scott said that many dairy farmers were already facing the prospect of paying the $4,000 per year tax on the produce they produce.
“This is not the time for that to be put to an end,” he said.
The dairy industry says it has a clear view on the future, with the Government’s plans being made to a new Government by the end of the year.
“If there’s a change of Government in December, we’ll be ready to make that change, but the reality is it’s going to be a lot of work, a lot more time, and we need to have a plan in place that we can get on with,” Dr John McNeill, Dairy Farmers Australia’s chief executive, said.
But the Government has indicated it will not introduce the scheme until the end, in March 2019.
Mr Ciobo has also said the Government is “confident” the scheme will go ahead.
“What we are going to do is a fair amount of work on a package that is fair and transparent,” he told Sky News.
“And then we’ll come back to you, and you’ll be able to comment on the package and the Government will have a full assessment of it.”AAP/ABC