New Victorian rural assistance commissioner Peter Tuohey says the dairy industry in Northern Victoria is almost on the brink of collapse without current and future support for farmers.
Mr Tuohey highlighted the high cost of water as the reason a number of farmers have put their farms on the market or even walked off their properties as farming became too expensive or difficult in the current climate.
«Looking at the dairy industry, it’s pretty much on the brink of collapse in Northern Victoria,» he said.
«There’s quite a number. I know in our area there’s over 50 dairy farms have gone on market in the Cohuna area, that’s a huge number.
«So you look at production levels and it certainly could become an unviable area and we would hate to see that because it has a big impact on all the areas around the town – Cohuna, Gunbower, Leitchville and even Echuca, if haven’t got a dairy industry there.
«North of Cohuna and through to Echuca is doing it the toughest. Through to Shepparton is also doing it tough as they have the same problem which is lack of water and high cost of water.»
A former Victorian Farmers Federation president, Mr Tuohey was appointed to his new role on Wednesday. He is planning to consult with farmers and work with government to improve how things are done and ensuring information on the state government’s recently announced $31 million drought support packages is readily available.
As well as Northern Victoria and the Goulburn Murray irrigation district, Mr Tuohey was concern about drought-stricken farmers in Gippsland and the Millewa.
«I’ve got to get out and about and talk to farmers pretty much straight away,» he said. «So I’ll be travelling to Gippsland, Millewa and to the (Northern Victorian) dairy farmers to catch up to see how they’re faring and what think of current (relief) packages.
«That feedback will go to the minister and the department and see where any shortcomings are.
«Locally in the Bendigo area, the government are trying to deliver packages to support farmers. The crux of it is, somewhere along the line there will be severe droughts and severe weather events.
«Most farmers seen droughts, they’re not uncommon. Most farmers are used to that (but) each individual farmer has to manage it to their own situation.»