WA dairy farmers are discussing ways to bolster political advocacy to set the industry up for the future after reduced WAFarmers voluntary membership fees and WAFarmersFirst Milk royalty returns have begun to take their toll on the Dairy Council. WAFarmers Dairy Council president Ian Noakes said the council would be undertaking an “education process” within the industry during the next eight to 12 months to inform dairy farmers about the benefits of an improved funding model to support greater ongoing industry advocacy. A new “sustainable funding model” via a Dairy Producers’ Committee under the WA Agricultural Produce Commission, which would be made up of WA dairy farmers, would replace the current council and play a similar role, Mr Noakes said in the council’s spring 2023 newsletter to industry. He said if there was enough support from among the 100 odd dairy farmers in the State the APC would be engaged to conduct an industry poll before any decision was made. “It’ll be at least eight to 12 months before we put it to a vote,” Mr Noakes said. “If we feel it won’t get up we won’t bother. If the poll succeeded, all dairy farmers would be required to pay a compulsory fee-for-service that would benefit the whole WA dairy industry. Mr Noakes said the Dairy Producers’ Committee would consult with fellow farmers to determine the fee and services for each year. He said since he has led the Dairy Council, membership has gone up to about 46 — about half the number of dairy farmers in WA. Despite the growth of the organisation, dairy farmers have been continuing to exit the industry in small numbers which has impacted voluntary membership fees to such an extent that they “no longer generate enough funds to cover our core activities — policy, advocacy and engagement”. “The Milk Fund (a royalty from WAFarmers First Milk) has funded various industry projects for 10 years, but is now decreasing due to product competition,” Mr Noakes said. “Sales have dropped and if we can’t sell enough it could get withdrawn from the shelves by Coles.” WAFarmers board director Michael Tarling said the brand dropped its price by 30 cents to $3.95 for two litres in February after sales volumes plummeted 20 per cent, significantly impacting market share. Mr Tarling said the price remained steady in order to remain competitive. Mr Noakes said most dairy farmers were benefiting from the current advocacy being undertaken but they were reluctant to pay for it. “Dairy Australia can’t release levy funds for advocacy and we can’t continue the way we are,” he said. If the industry wasn’t able to financially support its own advocacy it may have to rely on non-funded advocacy in the future, which “is not the end of the world” but would make it more difficult.