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May 30, 2016

The government has confidence in the Australian dairy industry and wants to support our farmers while the industry recovers from lower global dairy commodity prices. We have announced a $576 million Dairy Industry Assistance Package to provide short and term long-term support to dairy farmers.
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. The key elements of the dairy assistance package, announced by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce, are:
• $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;
• $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.
In addition, a re-elected Coalition Government will deliver $20 million to upgrade irrigation channels as part of the $60 million MID2030 Stage 1B Southern Tinamba Pipeline upgrade.
The MID2030 Stage 1B Southern Tinamba Pipeline upgrade is a critical project for Gippsland’s economic growth and one I have advocated for strongly.  This funding will increase the irrigation growth potential by 9000 hectares, creating more jobs in the dairy industry.
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.
On Thursday May 26, I participated in a United Dairyfarmers of Victoria and Victorian Farmers Federation forum at the Maffra Recreation Reserve with dairy farmers from the Macalister Irrigation District and sought feedback on the industry assistance package.
Farmers have indicated they want flexibility with the concessional loans, and a more streamlined application process for financial assistance.
Assistance for agricultural contractors and measures to retain employees on-farm was also raised and I have passed these suggestions on to the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources.
The importance of buying local dairy products, including cheese yoghurt and drinking milk, was also stressed, however a levy on fresh drinking milk was not widely supported.
Mr Joyce has been in Gippsland to meet with dairy farmers, and has also met with industry leaders, processors and retailers across Victoria.
It was important for local dairy farmers to highlight their concerns and suggest possible actions.  The Minister told the gathering that he understood the short term impact of the price cut and was working closely with the industry to secure the long term future.
Please be assured that The Nationals  are currently looking at a range of options to continue supporting our dairy farmers.



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