It’s sad to say but, clearly, Dairy Australia is scared of farmers.
I returned from a few hours in the paddocks to find screens and screens full of comments on Twitter from fellow farmers on the leaked DA email above.
It’s been explosive because DA is accused of protecting its own turf first rather than being transparent with and accountable to the farmers it serves and who pay compulsory levies to fund its operation.
Contrary to Barnaby Joyce’s wishful pronouncements, farmers are still in a world of pain and the DA levies amount to tens of thousands of dollars per year for many of us. It’s no surprise then, that the way DA spends farmer funds is highly scrutinised.
I’m a believer in the work DA does. The knowledge I’ve gained from DA programs has made an enormous difference to our farm and we’d be a lot worse off without it. But not everyone agrees.
Some farmers are even pushing hard for a halt to the DA levy, irate that the opportunity for a routine poll on whether the levy should be maintained, changed or scrapped altogether was passed up by a committee.
That committee had farmer members and the DA board has farmer members, too. You might think that something run by farmers for farmers would be great at communicating with farmers, but it’s not.
I’m embarrassed to say that, until I Googled them, I couldn’t even recall the names of DA’s long-standing farmer directors. And there are only one or two visible DA HQ staffers on Twitter. While DA maintains its silence, it’s hard to understand how it can accuse upset farmers of spreading misinformation.
It’s time DA’s farmer directors rolled up their shirt sleeves and had frank conversations right from the start. There was a time we had a director on Twitter who knew how to take the sting out of almost any issue by being ready to chat, quick to crack a joke and unfailingly real.
DA can never control the message but, if it wants farmer respect and understanding, it must first join the conversation.