Barnaby Joyce announces $578M support for dairy farmers amidst Australia’s milk crisis

By @chelean on
Shoppers walk past cartons of Devondale brand long life milk at a Sydney supermarket, April 12, 2016.
Shoppers walk past cartons of Devondale brand long life milk at a Sydney supermarket, April 12, 2016. Reuters/Jason Reed

Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce has announced a $578 million support package for dairy farmers. The federal government is offering concessional loans and cash for those affected by Australia’s milk crisis.

On Wednesday, the member for New England announced the care package for struggling dairy farmers, vowing to help the dairy industry survive amidst the worsening nationwide crisis.

The support package includes $555 million in Dairy Recovery Concessional Loans, $55 million of which will be offered to farmers in low-interest concessional loans up to June 30, and $500 of which will be set aside for loans over the next two years.

It will also include $20 million to fast track the upgrade of the Macalister Irrigation District, $2 million to establish a commodity price index, and $900 million to fund additional rural financial counselling services in Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and New South Wales. Another $900 million will be allocated to Dairy Australia’s Tactics for Tight Times program.

Joyce added the federal government will be assigning 18 employees to speed up the processing of farm household allowance claims. There will be an appointment of a dairy industry liaison officer from the Department of Human Services, as well as a redirection of two Department of Human Services Mobile Service Centres to dairy regions.

“I know it’s not an elixir to fix all ills, but at least it shows we are putting our shoulder to the wheel and trying to help,” Joyce said.

The Australian Bankers’ Association has also announced its support to dairy farmers. ABA Executive Director – Retail Policy Diane Tate encourages dairy farmers to contact their banks to learn more about assistance available for them.

“Banks understand that the agriculture industry is heavily impacted by seasonal factors and price fluctuations,” she said in a statement on Wednesday. “That’s why banks take a longer-term view in agricultural lending. They work with farmers who may be experiencing difficulties and can put in place special loan arrangements.”

The type of assistance the banks offer will depend on individual circumstances, though it may include a deferral of scheduled loan repayments, waiving of fees and charges, interest-free periods or no interest rate increases, and debt consolidation.