darren.chester.mp@aph.gov.au 1300 131 785
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May 25, 2016

The Nationals Member for Gippsland Darren Chester says a re-elected Coalition Government will deliver $20 million to upgrade irrigation channels in one of Gippsland’s most productive dairy regions, as part of a wider industry support package for dairy farmers.

Mr Chester welcomed the announcement this morning that the Coalition would commit one third of funding for the $60 million MID2030 Stage 1B Southern Tinamba Pipeline upgrade.

The $20 million MID funding is part of a Dairy Assistance Package announced by Deputy Prime Minister and Agriculture and Water Resources Minister Barnaby Joyce, who visited dairy farmers in Heyfield last week.

The support package will provide concessional loans and funding for Dairy Australia to provide assistance to dairy farmers who have had their incomes retrospectively cut by dairy processors Murray-Goulburn and Fonterra. There will also be additional money for financial counsellors.

“This is very welcome news for Gippslanders who have been hit hard by the fall in milk prices,” Mr Chester said.

Mr Chester said the MID2030 Stage 1B upgrade was a critical project for Gippsland’s economic growth and one he had advocated for strongly.

“The Nationals, as part of a re-elected Coalition Government, will deliver $20 million to complete the the Southern Tinamba Pipeline, in recognition of our commitment to the economic growth of Gippsland’s agriculture sector,” Mr Chester said.

“The Macalister Irrigation District produces world-class dairy, vegetable and other high-value products, and is a major source of jobs in Gippsland. This funding will increase the irrigation growth potential by 9000 hectares, creating more jobs in the dairy industry.

“The current irrigation system is outdated and in need of an upgrade. The MID2030 project will enable the supply system to operate at its optimum and provide 9700ML in savings by eliminating water wastage.

“Once complete, we will have a modern delivery grid that will improve water access for farmers and encourage more output.”

The Coalition’s $20 million will be matched by $20 million each from farmers through Southern Rural Water and the Victorian State Government.

The key elements of the dairy assistance package are:

• $555 million in Dairy Recovery Concessional Loans;
• $20 million to fast track the upgrade of the Macalister Irrigation District;
• $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;
• $900,000 for Dairy Australia’s ‘Tactics for Tight Times’ program;
• Fast tracking Farm Household Allowance applications with 18 more Department of Human Services employees processing claims;
• Appointment of a Department of Human Services Dairy Industry Liaison Officer;
• Redirection of two Department of Human Services Mobile Service Centres to dairy regions.

Mr Joyce said the Coalition would make 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 the 2016-17 and 2017-18 financial years.

“The recovery loans will be for terms of 10 years,” Mr Joyce said.

The concessional loans will be funded by expanding the drought concessional loan scheme to include dairy-specific criteria.

Mr Joyce said the Coalition was allocating $900,000 to Rural Financial Counselling Services in dairy production areas to ensure farmers receive the farm business financial advice needed, as well as $900,000 to Dairy Australia to continue rolling out one-to-one business advisory support via the Tactics for Tight Times program.

Minister for Human Services Alan Tudge said the Coalition was taking immediate action to ensure eligible dairy farmers had fast-tracked access to the support they need to get through the tough times.

“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.”

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, Mr Chester said a re-elected Coalition Government would 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. The Coalition will consult with the industry on the design of the index that will provide dairy farmers with valuable information for use in supply negotiations with processors and to assist in following international price trends,” Mr Chester said.

“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.”

CAPTION: The Nationals Member for Gippsland Darren Chester has been advocating on behalf of local farmers to secure $20 million for the Macalister Irrigation District Southern Tinamba Pipeline upgrade, in addition to a dairy assistance package following the drop in milk prices.

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