Gippsland South The Nationals Agriculture Dairy

Dairy farmers urged to take up government support

The Nationals’ Member for Gippsland South Danny O’Brien has urged Gippsland dairy farmers to take up support available to them from the state and federal governments.

Mr O’Brien welcomed the announcement this morning by the Federal Coalition of $555 million in concessional loans, better access to Centrelink support and other measures that will make life easier for dairy farmers battling through the current price crisis.

Mr O’Brien said the dairy assistance package announced by the State Government yesterday would also be of assistance to dairy farmers but the government needed to do more.

“There are some useful tools available from both levels of government for farmers to now take up,” he said.

“The offer of concessional loans at 2.71 per cent dropping to 2.66 per cent in August is a significant opportunity for those struggling with debt.

“The Farm Household Allowance is being taken up by many farmers, providing cash to literally put food on the table for those who are really struggling.

“The State Government support in conjunction with industry is positive, but I believe Labor needs to do a lot more for farmers with cash flow issues and business planning.”

The Nationals are calling on the government to introduce local government rates concessions as one way to help farmers who are struggling with bills.

“We can’t pay the bills for feed, electricity and other accounts that will be coming in, but the government can do more on council and water rates,” Mr O’Brien said.

“Yesterday at a briefing with Agriculture Minister Jaala Pulford I put forward a number of other suggestions including more business planning support, additional Rural Financial Counsellors, kindergarten and childcare subsidies and the provision of small capital grants.

“While the dairy farmers themselves are struggling we have to realise that service industries and small businesses in our towns will also struggle and the idea of small capital grants for works on farm could help ensure that those businesses keep getting work.”

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Mr O’Brien added that Murray Goulburn and Fonterra had much to answer for the current crisis and should be reconsidering their decisions to retrospectively claw back payments.

“These companies have caused the problems through mismanagement and they should be doing more to assist farmers to get through the crisis.

“While this is a serious crisis for the industry I have long term confidence in a strong future for the industry and collectively I am sure we can all get through this together.”

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