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Vic milk farmers given extra counsellors

Extra counsellors will be brought in to help devastated Victorian farmers after savage retrospective cuts in milk prices.

Victorian Agriculture Minister Jaala Pulford has met with banks to ask them to work with farmers facing financial strife after milk companies slashed prices and sent dairy farms the bill.

“To have your price so dramatically reduced, with no warning, no notice, and then because of the forward selling arrangements to be presented with a bill,” Premier Daniel Andrews said.

“We’re going to put some more counsellors on the ground because we know a lot of farmers are paying a very heavy emotional price for this extremely difficult set of circumstances.”

Gippsland farmer and Fonterra milk supplier Ron Paynter said it was one of the worst times he had seen in his 20 years in the industry. Many would need to seek support to survive, he said.

He said dry conditions had made it more difficult for farmers, who had made many financial decisions based on the elevated milk price.

“It’s the $300,000 conversation with the bank manager today to maintain and support our operation and we’ll talk to Fonterra about their loans too,” Paynter said.

Meanwhile, dairy farmers hit by falling milk prices are waiting to find out how they will benefit from a new brand that supermarket giant Coles says will put more money in their pockets.

Each litre sold of the yet-to-be named brand, which Coles expects to have on shelves within three months, will put 20 cents into a fund for about 2,600 NSW and Victoria farmers hit by Murray Goulburn’s decision to cut how much it pays them.

Australia’s biggest dairy cooperative Murray Goulburn slashed the price they pay farmers for milk solids from $5.60 a kilogram to between $4.75 and $5 a kilogram and issued a profit downgrade, leaving farmers facing huge bills.

They blame a slump in global prices – down about 60 per cent since early 2014 – for their decision.

Farmers say they understood the international market was struggling, but that didn’t always correlate with what Australian processors paid its producers and described the latest cut as “quite a shock”.

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