ADF President Simone Jolliffe and Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce in Victoria this week after discussing the federal government’s response to the dairy price cut crisis.

AUSTRALIAN Dairy Farmers are asking government to adjust the eligibility criteria for $20,000 in cash grants that normally aid communities hit by natural disasters like floods and fires, to support embattled dairy farmers impacted by the shock milk price cut crisis.

ADF President Simone Jolliffe welcomed various support measures promoted by different groups to promote support dairy farmers this week including banks easing debt pressures and financial assistance by State governments.

Ms Jolliffe was one of several industry leaders and dairy farmers who met for talks this week with Agriculture and Water Resources Minister Barnaby Joyce near Shepparton in Victoria, to address a response package.

Ms Jolliffe said support measures from the major banks and State governments had been declared but federal government grants remained a core priority.

She said a verbal request was made to Mr Joyce this week to amend the eligibility criteria for disaster relief assistance to provide $5000 grants for professional business advice for farmers suffering the heaviest impacts of the price cut crisis.

That request also applied to $15,000 cash grants that can be provided to assist immediate recovery efforts for dairy farmers which are normally issued for community support following extreme weather events.

Ms Jolliffe said the support package also needed to be bipartisan and she would speak to Shadow Agriculture Minister Joel Fitzgibbon, and Mr Joyce, in understanding the caretaker conventions of government due to the federal election.

“ADF is extremely welcoming of any support that can assist those dairy farmers who have been impacted by these unplanned price cuts by milk processors,” she said.

“We are using our own resources to assist farmers at this time but we also need more federal government assistance to support those most heavily impacted, including fast-tracking Farm Household Allowance.

“We also need to amend the criteria for concessional loans and to help with access to cash grants that are provided to communities hit unexpectedly by natural disasters like floods and fires that help them with recovery efforts.”

Ms Jolliffe said improving resources to strengthen the delivery of Rural Financial Counselling Services for the dairy industry, was also a priority.

She said about 4000 of the nation’s 6100 dairy farmers were impacted by Murray Goulburn’s retrospective price cuts which were followed by Fonterra and the exact number of businesses needing the cash grants was still being determined.

After this week’s meeting near Shepparton, which included Health Minister Sussan Ley and Regional Development and Health Minister Fiona Nash, Mr Joyce said various measures were being considered, to implement an assistance package.

That included resources to assist effected farmers with managing paperwork on Farm Household Allowance applications.

Mr Joyce said he would also talk to the Finance Minister about changing the criteria for delivering concessional loans, at a cheaper rate.

“We have access to a quarter of $1 billion per year which we got through the White Paper and concessional loans so let’s see if we can make more of that available to people in the dairy industry,” he said.

Mr Joyce said dairy industry members had promised to provide him with a statement on their support requirements after the meeting which Ms Jolliffe said was due early next week.

“There are a couple of other issues that we said we are going off-line with to make sure that we get a result,” he said.

“We are already working towards the solution right now – we will be continuing on with the solution.”

The Nationals leader said the snap milk price reduction would be “more widely felt later on” but was currently concentrated on Fonterra and Murray Goulburn.

However, he stressed there was a strong global outlook for the dairy industry which he said was not suffering a “systemic downturn”.

“It’s got a short-term problem and we will find our way through this and we will continue on,” he said.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is also looking into the circumstances underpinning the milk price cuts as is the Australian Securities & Investments Commission.

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