The Turnbull government will provide support to Gippsland farmers undergoing economic hardship, after dairy processors Murray-Goulburn and Fonterra slashed Milk prices in April.
In a statement, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Barnaby Joyce, said the Coalition promise to deliver prompt assistance to dairy farmers affected by the crisis and help them return to profitability.
“I was pleased to meet dairy farmers in Victoria last week and the Coalition wants to send a clear message that the Coalition stands shoulder to shoulder with them”, Mr Joyce said.
Key components of the government’s proposed relief package include: $555 million in Dairy Recovery Concessional Loans, $2 million to establish a commodity milk price index, $900,000 for an additional 9 Rural Financial Counsellors in Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and New South Wales, as well as a further $900,000 to find Dairy Australia’s ‘Tactics for Tight Times Programme.’
“The Coalition will be making immediately available $55 million in Dairy Recovery Concessional Loans for Murray-Goulburn and Fonterra suppliers this year, as well as access to $500 million in concessional loans over 2016-17 and 2017-18 years”, Mr Joyce said.
“The recovery loans will be for terms of 10 years.”
These concessional loans will be funded by expanding the drought concessional loan scheme to include dairy-specific criteria.
Minister for Human Services, Alan Tudge said the Coalition is taking immediate action to ensure eligible dairy farmers have access to the support they need to get through the tough times ahead.
“We’ve ramped up the number of staff processing Farm Household Allowance claims. An extra 18 people have been brought in to process claims and to work directly with farming families on their individual cases, with a special focus on people in financial hardship”, Mr Tudge said.
“Where a farmer is facing real hardship and we have received the full details, a decision can be made almost immediately. If there is any difficulty obtaining the information we need to assess a claim, Farm Household Case Officers can talk to the farmer’s accountant or financial adviser to help get the information needed.
Member for McMillian, Russell Broadbent, welcomes the Turnbull government’s decision to provide a bail out package for struggling farmers and said communities across his electorate have especially been hit hard by the dairy crisis.
Mr Broadbent said that to help ensure the domestic dairy industry does not in future find itself in a situation where dairy processors unexpectedly reduce farm gate milk prices late in the season, a re-elected Coalition Government will work with the dairy industry to establish a commodity milk price index.
“The Deputy Prime Minister has said that the index would introduce greater transparency and market signals in domestic and global milk prices”, Mr Broadbent said.
“The Coalition will consult with the industry on the design of the index that would provide dairy farmers with valuable information for use in supply negotiations with processors and to assist in following international price trends.”
Labor candidate for McMillian, Chris Buckingham supports the relief package but suggests that more needs to be done to ensure the current dairy crisis never happens again.
Mr Buckingham voices concern over agricultural producer protections and calls for the Coaltion government to review these contacts to achieve a better balance of protections for producers and growers.
“Dairy farmers have been caught out by contact provisions that had rarely been exercised in the past”, Mr Buckingham said.
“Few realised this could lead them to be saddled with hundreds of dollars of debt.”
Mr Buckingham calls on those responsible for the dairy dilemma to be held to account and do their bit to fix this mess.
“The dairy industry is vital to the social and economic wellbeing of Gippsland.”
The dairy crisis is already shaping up to be one of the key issues and talking points amongst voters in the electorate of McMillian.
Member of McMillian Russell Broadbent and labor candidate Chris Buckingham pledge their allegiance to Gippsland dairy farmers and will provide their assistance to affected communities.
“The Coalition values the contribution our dairy farmers make to their regional communities and the nation as a whole and we are proud to support them throughout good times and bad”, Mr Broadbent said.
“Labor work with the affected communities and together we will find a way through the challenges”, Mr Buckingham said.