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Collective bargaining changes a boost to farmers’ clout

27 March 2007

THE Australian Government has agreed to an extension in the transaction thresholds for collective bargaining from $3 million to $5 million – effectively making it simpler, faster and cheaper for farmers to unite and collectively negotiate better prices and conditions from the 'big end of town'.

The National Farmers' Federation (NFF), having lobbied for this extension in the face of farmers having comparatively 'high turnover' and 'low profit margins', today endorsed the improved collective bargaining system and urged Australian farmers to take full advantage of the new arrangements.

"Collective bargaining provides tangible benefits to farming businesses," NFF President David Crombie said. "It supports more effective negotiations for farmers by giving them greater clout in dealing with the retail giants, major processors and dominant wholesale markets.

"It ensures the prices and conditions that we receive for our produce measures up to its actual market value – that's good news for farmers and for consumers concerned about the disparity between what farmers get for their produce and what families pay at the check-out.

"The new $5 million threshold for small businesses – including farmers – to collectively bargain will make the system accessible to more farmers, enabling them to greatly strengthen their negotiating position.

"This will also free-up farmers' time to focus on running their farming operations, instead of worrying about their contracting arrangements.

"It should be noted, this should have no impact on the prices consumers pay for Australian grown produce, rather it will simply ensure farmers are not left 'out-of-pocket' in the face of the market dominance of some players in the retail, processing and wholesale sectors.

"In fact, flowing from these new arrangements, consumers can have great confidence that we now have a more robust system that will give small businesses a much-needed boost in effectively dealing with big business, and overcome prevalent imbalances in bargaining power."

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has also launched its education campaign highlighting the benefits of collective bargaining for small businesses, and the NFF is encouraging farmers to explore all the opportunities available to them under the new system.

For more information, farmers should contact the ACCC Small Business Helpline on 1300 302 021 or visit: Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

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Media Enquiries: Brett Heffernan on (02) 6273 3855 or 0408 448 250.

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