Federal and state governments were yesterday accused of creating a firestorm of dairy farmers walking away from their farms by offering no assistance to those in crisis.
Farmer Power spokesman Chris Gleeson, of Crossley, dismissed as inadequate a response by federal Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig to the request last month by his group and the United Dairyfarmers of Victoria (UDV) for cash assistance for struggling dairy farmers.
He said the federal and state governments were forcing dairy farms to be put up for sale or closed down by banks because they had not been willing to provide adequate help.
“They know there is a problem but they have not been prepared to help,” Mr Gleeson said.
He blasted the governments after Mr Ludwig’s only offer was the existing Transitional Farm Family Payment.
The payment is paid at a fortnightly rate equivalent to the newstart allowance.
It helps farm families experiencing financial difficulty to manage the impacts of climate variability and market fluctuations.
Mr Ludwig said he recognised the ongoing concern among dairy farmers, particularly in south-western Victoria, about their tough financial situation.
He met with representatives of Farmer Power, the UDV and the Victorian Farmers Federation in Melbourne last month and said he and his parliamentary secretary, Sid Sidebottom, had regular contact with representatives of the dairy industry.
“Australian agriculture is seeing a patchwork effect and while some areas are doing well, others are doing it tough,” Mr Ludwig said.
“For some dairy farmers in Victoria, a range of factors are combining to place pressure on their businesses.
“Dairy Australia is aware of these pressures and is using levies and government funding to support producers through initiatives such as the Tactics for Tight Times workshops.
“The Transitional Farm Family Payment is available to producers to provide some financial assistance.
“In addition to this, we will continue to work with industry to look at the issues affecting them and how we can assist producers going forward.”
Mr Gleeson said the Tactics for Tough Times workshops only offered “a new set of eyes” to assess the management of individual dairy farms.
“It does not generate any cash flow,” he said.
“You can have as many workshops as possible but it will not result in a better milk price and stock still have to be fed.”
Mr Gleeson said the state government was also failing dairy farmers and the dairy industry crisis was being pushed “to and fro between governments”.
“They need to work together,” he said.