Major reforms have been announced by the Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers (RABDF) at a briefing held in London today (6 March). A comprehensive review of the charity’s activities will see it narrow its focus to areas in which it can offer unique benefits; it will cut peripheral or duplicated activities and also step up its influencing work.
Part of the change of direction will be a brand new technology and innovation-based event, Dairy-Tech, to be held in February 2018 at Stoneleigh Park. Focusing on the science and technology of dairy farming and the cutting-edge tools that will support a wide range of systems, Dairy-Tech will be RABDF’s annual flagship exhibition, replacing the proposed National Dairy Event which was scheduled to take place in September.
Mike King, chairman of RABDF, said a long and rigorous review process had brought RABDF to this point and while every option for the future of the charity had been considered, feedback from industry and members made it clear there was still an important place for RABDF in the dairy sector.
He explained: “Since reviewing the organisation’s activities it has become clear that RABDF hasn’t been playing to its strengths or delivering sufficient depth. It didn’t evolve with the times and lost sight of its specialisms. Our revised strategy is to focus on where we can deliver genuine and sustained value, on our own, or in collaboration with others. We won’t just raise issues – we’ll follow them through.”
Matthew Knight, managing director of RABDF, said a core part of the organisation’s activities moving forward would be influencing and lobbying of government and policymakers through its joint secretariat of the Dairy All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG), Royal associations, and its extensive contacts in the dairy supply chain.
Mr Knight said: “This is an area valued highly by those we consulted. We are in a strong position to gain industry feedback and publicise pressing issues such as provision of skilled dairy labour post-Brexit. Now we want to follow these through and as well as being part of the noise, be a part of the solution. This will be supported with a new Policy Conference that will take place in October, in association with The Trehane Trust.
“Another area of concern is how the sector identifies and develops young talent. We will expand our existing work in this area, encouraging new entrants through training and awards but looking also at how reaching into urban areas could generate new technicians for our industry as well as new public support.
“Lastly, business resilience remains a key feature. We are going to build on our popular on-farm learning opportunities, especially for profitable youngstock rearing and grass utilisation. We will look at issues such as how to improve dialogue between vets and farmers in reducing antibiotic use, and will keep developing the Women in Dairy initiative. Also watch out for a big announcement about our flagship RABDF/NMR Gold Cup competition, soon to be relaunched with a new scope.”
Mr Knight added that a priority of the review had been to ensure membership delivered value. Dairy-Tech and events on-farm would now carry a modest charge, with members attending free and receiving further ticket discounts. Both the new Policy and Women in Dairy Conferences would be discounted by 25% for members with concessions available on other events. Members would also have the opportunity to raise issues at Council level, with escalation to the All-Party Parliamentary Group if warranted.
Lord Don Curry, president of RABDF, said he welcomed the changes and was delighted the charity had a new found direction and sense of purpose, and could start to deliver genuine value to its members again.
He said: “Following a challenging few years it is wonderful to see RABDF not only survive extensive consultations on its future, but now ready to re-establish itself. It is clear it has a proud past but also, now, a bright future.”