Farmers cheer for new agriculture umpire

Happy farmer waving from his old red tractor. Clearly he is very happy being a farmer.

(Australian Associated Press)

Farmers say a new umpire to settle their disputes with supermarkets will ensure there’s a level playing field in the system.

The federal government is to appoint the commissioner to work under the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

It’s one of the measures of the agriculture white paper, which will be released on Saturday in the Victorian regional centre of Warrnambool.

The National Farmers Federation said an adjudicator would help the competition watchdog get a better understanding of agriculture.

“It’s not about one group having a hand over another, it’s making sure the supply chain works well,” president Brent Finlay told AAP on Wednesday.

“It’s getting all parties up at the table.”

Farmer disputes with supermarkets have been the focus of recent Federal Court action with Coles copping a $10 million fine last year for unconscionable conduct in dealings with suppliers.

The government has also moved to set up a voluntary code of conduct to govern supermarkets’ interactions with suppliers.

Last year’s agriculture green paper outlined potential laws to make it easier for farmers to run a co-operative to increase their bargaining powers.

There were also plans to build more dams and fund extra irrigation projects, with the government earmarking 27 potential sites for water infrastructure projects.

Labor says the document must have a plan to boost farm productivity and profitability, and focus on ways to encourage a new generations of farmers.

A long-term drought plan must include prevention measures rather than knee-jerk reactions to periods of drought.

It must also protect Australia’s reputation as a “clean green” supplier of food.

“(Otherwise) it will be a failed document,” opposition agriculture spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon told AAP.

Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce is set to speak on the white paper at the National Press Club in Canberra on Monday, canvassing issues including tax policy, drought preparedness, industry skills and exports.


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