Victoria is the largest milk producer in Australia, and the south-west of Victoria boasts some of our best dairy country. In no uncertain terms, dairy is the backbone of agriculture in south-west Victoria. The recent milk price drop and the circumstances by which it came about have been devastating to the industry and those who make their livelihood from it. Our immediate and ongoing concern is for the wellbeing and welfare of our farmers — those who do the hard work on farms every day so we can all enjoy the best quality dairy products in the world.
That is why last Friday the Minister for Agriculture announced a $1.5 million package for struggling dairy farmers to get through this difficult time. This package includes $940 000 for more counsellors on the ground and additional funding for Lifeline, $345 000 for grants in affected communities, $150 000 to train 750 people in mental first aid and an additional $100 000 for the Look over the Farm Gate program.
Just this morning the minister announced a further $4.5 million to deliver an $11.4 million support package in partnership with the Victorian dairy industry for dairy farmers affected by the fall in milk prices. This includes an expansion of Dairy Australia’s programs Tactics for Tight Times and Taking Stock, a boost in relation to counselling and funding for support workers at United Dairyfarmers of Victoria. Labor will consult with farmers and their communities as to the best way our additional $4.5 million can contribute to the spend. I look forward to being part of those discussions.