The response comes in the wake of the global fall of milk prices and the decision by Murray Goulburn and Fonterra to retrospectively cut the prices paid to producers.
Premier Daniel Andrews announced on Friday, May 20 (today) a $1.5 million assistance package in South Gippsland to deliver supports for affected farmers and the broader community.
“We’re putting farmers and their families first by providing them with the support they need to look after themselves – and each other,” said Premier Daniel Andrews after a kitchen table chat with Nerrena dairy farmers Janine and Terry Clark.
They said many dairy farmers were still in shock about the announcement made by Murray Goulburn, which they said came “completely out of the blue”, but that few of their questions had been satisfactorily answered.
Mr Andrews expressed his own concerns about the wellbeing of farmers following the price downturn.
“Victorian dairy farmers produce world class produce that we’re proud of. Farmers are resilient and proud people, but we know that even the most resilient need support during these difficult times for the dairy sector.”
The package will ensure dairy farmers and their families experiencing emotional and financial stress get the support they need to help them get through these challenging times and includes:
* $940,000 for extra counselling services and additional funding to Lifeline so that farmers and their families can get the information, advice and support they need
* $345,000 for grants for affected communities so they are better supported to continue to look out for each other and come together to talk about the issues that matter to them
* $150,000 to give 750 people mental health first aid training, giving the community valuable information about mental health issues and where to get help for themselves, their friends or family
* $100,000 boost towards the Look Over the Farm Gate program led by the VFF and the National Centre for Farmer Health. This will include extra community wellbeing workshops and community events
“The dairy industry is reeling and farmers need our support now more than ever. Our immediate concern is to support the emotional health and wellbeing of our dairy farmers and communities,” said Minister for Agriculture Jaala Pulford.
The Minister wasn’t in Leongatha for the announcement.
Instead she was convening a Dairy Industry Taskforce in Melbourne to address how farming communities can be supported by proactive measures led by industry.
This will shortly report back to government and Mr Andrews said there would be more announcements soon as a result.
Minister Pulford has also met with the banks, calling on the financial sector to better support farmers affected by the dramatic drop in milk prices in Victoria.
Both Minister Pulford and the Premier welcomed the announcement by the ANZ Bank that it would offer to delay loan payments by dairy farmers until at least the new season prices were announced.
Mr Andrews urged the other banks to come up with their own support packages.
He said the Labor Government was “standing with our dairy farmers as they do it tough and won’t let any farmer or community member suffer in silence”.
“We’re standing with our farmers as they do it tough and won’t let anyone go it alone. We’ll do our bit to boost critical support services at a time when it’s needed most,” said the Minister for Mental Health Martin Foley.
Mr Andrews said community and government support for farmers who might be feeling down at the moment was the first and most pressing need and as well as government measures, he urged fellow farmers to reach out to their neighbours and others.
Dairy farmers and their families seeking help, they can phone Lifeline on 13 11 14.
For further information on any of this package, please phone DEDJTR on 136 186.