Dan’s van rolls into town, bet­ter late than never

Campaspe News - - NEWS - — Rusty Woodger

VIC­TO­RIAN premier Daniel An­drews rolled into Lock­ing­ton on Wed­nes­day for the first time since he en­tered of­fice two years ago.

The brief, but nonethe­less mo­men­tous, oc­ca­sion saw Mr An­drews visit the Mitchell fam­ily’s dairy farm, where he an­nounced a $1.8m grants pro­gram to help pro­duc­ers af­fected by the milk price down­turn.

The grants of up to $5000 are avail­able to farm busi­nesses to in­vest in fixed in­fra­struc­ture to im­prove their farm – al­though to be el­i­gi­ble, farm­ers must match the grant dol­lar-for-dol­lar.

‘‘We know with the re­cent price changes, a lot of dairy fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties more broadly are do­ing it tough,’’ Mr An­drews said.

‘‘These di­rect grants are all about prac­ti­cal as­sis­tance, stand­ing with dairy com­mu­ni­ties in very tough times.

‘‘We know it’s tough, but there’s ev­ery cause to be op­ti­mistic.’’

The Premier used the op­por­tu­nity to de­scribe the re­cent milk price cuts by Mur­ray Goul­burn and Fon­terra as ‘‘not right’’ and ‘‘com­pletely un­ac­cept­able’’.

‘‘But we can’t dwell on that. What we need to do is be there to sup­port our dairy in­dus­tries,’’ he said.

The grants pro­gram was wel­comed by the United Dairy­farm­ers of Vic­to­ria, but pres­i­dent Adam Jenk­ins said more needed to be done to help busi­nesses.

‘‘We ap­pre­ci­ate the ef­forts of the State Gov­ern­ment in of­fer­ing di­rect sup­port to dairy farm­ers and their com­mu­ni­ties when it’s most needed,’’ he said.

‘‘There’s still a lot of work needed to re­store con­fi­dence in the dairy in­dus­try and our com­mu­ni­ties and the grants might not be a lot of money in the long-term, but this is a wel­come step in the right di­rec­tion.’’

But Mem­ber for Mur­ray Plains Peter Walsh was not so im­pressed with the an­nounce­ment, claim­ing it was sim­ply ‘‘scraps off the ta­ble’’.

‘‘Daniel An­drews has an­nounced grants he said would ex­tend as­sis­tance to our dairy farm­ers but there are 4200 dairy farms in Vic­to­ria and his pro­gram will only ex­tend to 360 ap­pli­cants,’’ he said.

‘‘The fixed in­fra­struc­ture grants are also only of­fered on con­di­tion of a match­ing dol­lar-for-dol­lar con­tri­bu­tion from farm­ers which is go­ing to be tough for a lot of busi­nesses.

‘‘Farm­ers with cash flow can try their luck but farm­ers in the red who don’t have funds to match will miss out.’’

Photo: Sit­thixay Dit­thavong

Dairy farmer Noel Mitchell with premier Daniel An­drews in Lock­ing­ton on Wed­nes­day.

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