NSW Farmers' dairy committee has broken ranks with its parent body to strongly urge its members to vote in favour of transferring industry funds to new peak body Dairy Connect NSW.
Although the NSW Farmers board of directors is keen for the association to refrain from making any specific recommendation on how members should vote, dairy committee chairman, Paul Timbs said his group had long been supportive of Dairy Connect's formation and plans.
"We support the transfer the Graham Park Trust funds to Dairy Connect and are 100pc behind the formal establishment of Dairy Connect," he said.
"It is very important that dairy producers know Dairy Connect NSW is in the best interests of the NSW dairy industry," he said.
Eligible farmers have until October 18 to submit their votes.
Ballot papers for the vote were sent to farmers last week, but only a portion of the State's milk producers can decide if industry funds worth $1.2 million in the Graham Park Trust can be moved to Dairy Connect's trusteeship.
Only NSW Farmers dairy farmer members are eligible to cast a
vote because NSW Farmers is the current trustee.
The funding fate of Dairy Connect is partly in the balance as the 250 NSW Farmers members make up their minds.
A "yes" vote in the long-anticipated ballot would enable Dairy Connect to draw on interest from the trust's kitty to help establish the new body as a multi-platformed peak group representing farmers, milk processors and vendors.
Although Dairy Connect's plans have won solid support from farmers, NSW Farmers members represent only about a quarter of the State's 800-plus dairy farmers and the organisation has been hesitant about the new body's intentions.
A key concern of the NSW Farmers board is that Dairy Connect may dip into more than just the trust's interest to meet its initial operating and set up costs.
Dairy Connect NSW was established earlier this year to be the single, not-for-profit voice for the whole industry, with the initiative driven in part by several key NSW Farmers dairy committee members.
The new body wants to be the point of contact and communication with farmers, governments, media and decision makers.
If it does not win the trusteeship Dairy Connect still intends to continue its work with all industry players providing a whole-of-industry approach to critical industry issues, including seeking better farm gate returns for milk.
Mr Timbs has urged all his members to get their votes in.
He said some NSW Farmers dairy members indicated they would keep their association membership regardless of the ballot result, ensuring they retained access to services such as representation on industrial relations, water, land use planning and carbon tax issues.
In the meantime his committee was talks with NSW Farmers directors to see if Dairy Connect's farmer executive members could hold the dual position of being a Section 29 committee of NSW Farmers.
This could enable dairy farmers to continue their access to services such as industrial relations representation provided by NSW Farmers.
The board has said that if NSW Farmers was replaced by Dairy Connect as trustee of the Graham Park Trust, the association would look further at how best to engage with the new body.
Producer consultation meetings with Dairy Connect's executive have been held across the State in recent months.
The new peak body has also held talks at government level and with processors and supermarkets.
"I'm pleased we've secured overwhelming support for our objectives, right across the industry," said Dairy Connect chairman Adrian Drury.
He said the Graham Park Dairy Trust was originally established with the clear objective of benefiting the dairy farming sector and this had also been Dairy Connect's stated goal from the outset.
"We represent the future of the NSW dairy industry," Mr Drury said.
"Everyone we have spoken to understands how vital this work is."