The Queensland Agriculture and Environment Committee last week tabled its report into the Sustainable Queensland Dairy Production (Fair Milk Price Logo) Bill 2016 (QLD). The Bill responds to the declining protections and power of dairy farmers in industry against large scale merchants. The Bill will introduce a voluntary labelling mechanism that will identify fair milk to consumers to assist in market recognition of sustainable industry. Eligibility for this logo will require merchants to pay farms a minimum price per litre, calculated using the Queensland Government’s Queensland Dairy Accounting Scheme.
However, the Committee has found the Bill to be an unsustainable intrusion of government into an industry that has been deregulated since 2000. The Committee also suggested that state-regulation of fair-priced milk could risk a future legal challenge on constitutional grounds as it would grant a competitive advantage to Queensland producers not available to inter-state producers, regardless of the scheme being voluntary. Further, the existence of voluntary logos already illustrates the limited need for government intervention, with industry demonstrating the marketing success of logos. Whilst the Committee concluded the Bill should not be passed, they did recommend the Queensland Dairyfarmer’s Organisation, with the support of government, design an industry-operated marketing scheme which may include fair milk logos.
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