MEMBER for Eastern Victoria Region Melina Bath in parliament called on the State Government to consider rate rebates or water charge waivers for Victoria’s struggling dairy farmers but said she was met with resistance by Agriculture Minister Jaala Pulford.
Ms Pulford refused to answer how her State Government would further support Victoria’s dairy farmers despite her complaints that the Federal Government’s $579 million assistance package was not enough.
“I have followed up on Victorian farmers’ requests and asked the Minister to step up and offer direct financial relief to dairy farm businesses such as rate rebates as this comes under the power of the state government but the Minister refused to answer my question in parliament this week,” Ms Bath said.
“Dairy farmers in my electorate are under serious stress following Murray Goulburn and Fonterra’s decision to slash milk prices.
“As the daughter of a dairy farmer I know the hard work and long hours put in by these people often up against environmental hurdles such as drought, and so this latest crisis has particularly concerned me,” Ms Bath told the parliament.
“I’ve met with local farmers including United Dairyfarmers Victoria local president Brad Missen, a Denison dairy farmer who is now working the job of two men after having to let one of his employees go.
“Brad understands the major thing that needs to change to fix this industry is better returns but said in the meantime farmers needed assistance assessing their businesses and applying for appropriate assistance.”
Ms Bath said the Federal Minister for Agriculture Barnaby Joyce acted immediately following the announced milk price cuts and released $555 million in Dairy Recovery Concessional Loans of which $430 million was available for Victorian Dairy Farmers.
“Unfortunately our state Labor government chose to play politics with this much needed assistance at first refusing to pay administrative costs to distribute these loans and holding up the process,” she said.