Dairy roundtable meeting at Tangambalanga as Foodbank confirms rise in demand from farming communities

Foodbank Victoria packs 10 kilogram Christmas food hampers destined for farming families. Picture: GUY EVANS PHOTOGRAPHY
Foodbank Victoria packs 10 kilogram Christmas food hampers destined for farming families. Picture: GUY EVANS PHOTOGRAPHY

The irony of providing food parcels to farmers is not lost on Foodbank Victoria.

The state’s largest food relief agency said food distribution to rural communities had increased by more than 11 per cent in the past year.

Foodbank Victoria has provided about 500 Dairy Farmer relief hampers to northern Victoria. 

“Victorian Farmers feed Victorians and contribute to employment and the national GDP, so they are vital to a healthy Victoria and Australia,” Foodbank Victoria chief executive Dave McNamara said.

“Since the millennium drought, our farmers have experienced flood, high costs, drought and now the dairy crisis. It is a constant battle for many farming families and communities to just keep going.

“It truly is a sad irony that those who feed our families are now the ones needing the support, especially during the festive season.”

The news comes as the Federal government prepares to host roundtable meetings with dairy communities to address concerns about access to the government’s $579 million dairy assistance package to support farmers affected by reduced farm gate milk prices.

Member for Benambra Bill Tilley said a mental health forum in Dederang last month attracted almost 130 people, many of them dairy farmers.

“I have listened to many dairy farmers in the wake of Murray-Goulburn’s decision to retrospectively slash milk prices and seen the pain and hardship this has caused,” he said.

Mr Tilley said pay rises for Murray-Goulburn directors, detailed in the 2015-16 annual report, “seem out of step with the hardship imposed on these dairy farmers and do little for the many people forced to seek assistance just to survive”.

“Farmers have been reporting to me great frustration in applying for farm household assistance,” Independent Member for Indi Cathy McGowan said.

“There are delays of up to 20 weeks for applications to be processed. The process is too complex and slow. Completing it online is difficult for people without adequate access to the internet.

“Senator McKenzie will hear first-hand about the hardship the delays have caused dairy farmers who are dealing with an incredibly tough time in the industry.”

Victorian Nationals Senator Bridget McKenzie will represent Barnaby Joyce at the Tangambalanga Community Centre meeting on Monday, December 12, at 10.30am.

“We’ve just got to make sure that the package that we took to community is actually rolling out in the way we envisaged,” Senator McKenzie said.

“Whatever point in the process there seems to be a breakdown I think the forums would be a great place to raise those issues and then people will be asked to come to a resolution around them so that we can make sure what we wanted to achieve is actually what happens.”