Dairy farmers need to look at options

NATIONALS MPs have spoken in support of dairy farmers affected by falling milk prices.

Gippsland MHR Darren Chester has met with industry representatives and local financial institutions and raised the issue with Deputy Prime Minister and federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce in Canberra, while Gippsland South MLA Danny O’Brien has urged the state government to support farmers.

Both MPs encouraged farmers to consider their options for assistance.

Mr Chester said the recent price cuts by Murray Goulburn and Fonterra would affect farming families in different ways.

“I’m urging all banks to be patient and work closely with their customers. This is a significant setback, but I am confident in the long-term future of the dairying industry in Gippsland,” Mr Chester said.

“I have encouraged anyone with immediate financial concerns to contact the free and confidential Rural Financial Counselling service in Gippsland.

“We can’t change the milk price, but we can provide support to where it is needed most to help farmers get through the toughest years.”

Rural Financial Counselling can be phoned in Maffra on 5147 0855, while the Commonwealth’s Farm Household Allowance may also be available to some farmers. People experiencing difficulties can also phone Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Mr Chester said the recent events highlighted the need for further investment in the Macalister Irrigation District.

“The federal government has allocated $500 million for a National Water Infrastructure Fund, which Southern Rural Water and the Victorian government have bid in to,” he said.

“I am confident the MID 2030 stage 1b Tinamba Southern Pipeline upgrade will receive the funding it needs through this process.”

Mr O’Brien said many farmers in the Gippsland South electorate would be negatively impacted by the reduced returns and called on state Agriculture Minister Jaala Pulford to prepare resources in her department to tackle the issue.

“I have spoken to a number of dairy farmers over the last week in my electorate and there are a range of views of farmers, from outraged and angry to depressed, bewildered and uncertain,” Mr O’Brien said.

“Others have talked of getting out but some have been stoic in the face of the difficulty and have indicated that this really is a part of farming and something that they have become used to over the years.”

Mr O’Brien said while this price drop would have a significant impact on areas like Gippsland, it was a commercial decision made by individual companies and there was only so much the state government could do.

“The government needs to be ready with more support for financial counselling and mental health awareness if necessary,” he said.