Since 2020, the Australia dairy industry in has been covered by a national Dairy Code. Like the codes for the franchising and horticulture industries on which it is based, the Dairy Code is a mandatory code that regulates the conduct of the relationship between dairy farmers and milk processors in important ways.
Good Faith: The code requires processors and farmers to act in good faith in their dealings with one another.
Pricing Information: Milk processors are required to publicly release a Standard Form of Agreement on their website by June 1 each year, detailing the minimum prices to be paid for milk during the coming financial year. This ensures transparency in milk prices set by processors.
Milk Supply Agreements: All milk supply agreements between farmers and processors must be in writing. The code sets out certain mandatory terms for these agreements, such as volume and quality requirements, pricing structures, and the circumstances in which the agreement may be varied.
Exclusivity: The code restricts processors from making agreements that lock in farmers to supply milk exclusively to them, allowing farmers to supply to multiple processors.
Dispute Resolution: Finally the code recognises that disputes can occur between dairy farmers and processors and mandates that all milk supply agreements must contain a dispute resolution process. If a dispute arises between a farmer and a processor, they must first attempt to resolve it through this process. If they are unable to do so, the dispute can be taken to mediation or arbitration.
Code Arbiters are employed by the major retailers to receive, examine and determine disputes. In the past 2 years, only 5 disputes have ever been lodged despite there being thousands of suppliers and numerous informal complaints. According to the Code's Independent Reviewer: "the formal Complaints process in the Code is not fit for purpose ... the weakness at the core of the current Code is that it is a voluntary undertaking with zero compliance penalties."
Mediation provides the opportunity for without prejudice discussions that are assisted by a neutral third-person mediator empowered to consult privately with each party. The wide-ranging discussions in mediation cover the factual, legal and emotional aspects of each party's interests and positions in the conflict. Mediation provides an informal, non-binding priviledged negotiation managed by a neutral third party. It is a successful and low-cost way to discuss and resolve your disputes.
Arbitration is a private hearing and determination of your disputes by an independent and legally experienced Arbitrator. It provides for a determination by an independent Arbitrator who is bound to act judicially in hearing the parties evidence and submissions and making an award (decision). The Arbitrator's decision is binding on the parties and must be followed by them. If the parties agree, an arbitration can be conducted if the mediation does not finalise all issues in dispute.
Derek Minus is the former Commonwealth government Mediation Adviser and was responsible for managing disputes under various industry Codes of Conduct. As a barrister, accredited mediator and chartered arbitrator, he has the skills and experience to personally assist you with your dispute.
An accredited mediator since 1992, he provided submissions to inform the development of the Dairy Code in 2020 and has assisted dairy farmers and farmer groups in their disputes with milk producers.
In 2011, he provided advice for the NSW Farmers’ Association on the nature of dairy contracts and conducted negotiation training for dairy farmers.