Farmer Power to meet with Agriculture Minister

THE Farmer Power movement will tomorrow put its case for financial assistance to Victorian Minister for Agriculture and Food Security, Peter Walsh.

Mr Walsh will meet with representatives of the action group at DemoDAIRY, Terang, from 9am.

Group representative Chris Gleeson said the financial problems facing dairy farmers would be explained to Mr Walsh. Member for South West Coast Denis Napthine will also attend the meeting.

"We are looking for immediate government financial assistance," Mr Gleeson said.

He said the plight of dairy farmers was an issue for both federal and state governments.

"We will be asking Mr Walsh to push the issue with the federal government.

"Immediate interest-free loans would be the most appropriate way to provide assistance," Mr Gleeson said.

"Farmers are extending their overdrafts to survive but that's just making things worse if they don't have the capacity to service the debt.

"Interest-free loans would be the best way to address the problems immediately, but we then need to negotiate a higher farmgate price for milk as a long-term solution.

"The dairy industry is Victoria's biggest exporter - it contributes so much to the economy that the state government must take it seriously," Mr Gleeson said.

Co-organiser Jock O'Keefe said group representatives would also ask Mr Walsh to outline his own vision for the dairy industry

"We want to know where he thinks the industry is heading and what the government's involvement can be," Mr O'Keefe said.

The meeting will be restricted to representatives of Farmer Power and invited speakers.

Farmer Power is also planning to meet with the Victorian Farmers Federation and United Dairyfarmers of Victoria at Koroit on Thursday night, but this meeting is yet to be confirmed.

Farmer Power was formed by dairy farmers concerned that the combination of a low milk price, rising input costs and the effect of the strong Australian dollar have put returns below the cost of production.

shynes@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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