Helping the cream rise to the top

THE North East is plotting an ambitious path to re-igniting the dairy industry, which could see economic benefit of close to $800 million a year generated by 2020.

The Victorian government yesterday said it was helping to bankroll a strategy to increase dairy production to 400 million litres a year.

Member for Benambra Bill Tilley launched the $96,000 North East regional growth plan and an accompanying workforce development strategy at Tallangatta.

He said the strategy would be the basis for growth in the industry in the Upper Murray, Mitta, Tallangatta, Kiewa, Yackandandah, Ovens and King valleys and Wodonga and Wangaratta.

About 220 million litres of milk is produced in the North East on about 200 farms.

It was once a dairy leader, but output has been reduced more than one billion litres over the past decade, creating a knock-on effect to rural communities, businesses and the regional economy.

Mr Tilley said part of the aim was to resurrect farms that switched to other uses from dairy production.

“It is not about keeping the jobs we’ve got — it is about growing jobs,” he said.

“Nowadays, technology is available for automation.

“Previously you were tied to a dairy, couldn’t go on holidays and were milking twice a day, but it is all changing.

“We think there is a viable future in dairy farming and we want to get the next generation interested and trained with the right investment to grow the industry.”

Mr Tilley said the plan would help the dairy sector regain lost ground.

“I am certain that, as a region, we can achieve this ambitious goal by creating a bright future for dairy industry and those who work in it.”

The Coalition has invested $66,000 in the strategy.

The Towong, Alpine, Wangaratta and Indigo councils have contributed $15,000 between them and Dairy Australia has provided the other $15,000.

“It will help drive on-farm investment and create new jobs and economic development opportunities for value-adding businesses, such as processors and service industries,” Mr Tilley said.

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