South West Coast MP Roma Britnell says a coordinated approach between services and farmers is needed to ensure everyone makes it through the current dairy crisis.
Following a meeting in her office with dairy experts from diverse fields such as accounting, banking, veterinarians and processors, Mrs Britnell said funding a regional coordinator would have both short and long term benefits for the industry.
She said a regional coordinator would assist farm businesses work with services to develop a “plan of attack” to get them through the next six months financially.
She said the Great South Coast Group’s Food and Fiber Plan, which she has helped develop, was an off the shelf model, ready to go now.
“It has the governance and strategy, all that is needed is funding,” Mrs Britnell said.
“That plan wasn’t originally designed for this, but it could work in this crisis situation. It could then move towards its original intent – addressing farm business management and growing the region.
“If funding made available for six months, it would help farmers get through the current crisis and stem the impacts this will have on other businesses in the region.”
Mrs Britnell said rather than waiting for farmers to ask for help, the coordinator would make a friendly approach offering assistance, before it got too late.
We’ve seen in the past farmers are reluctant to ask for help,” she said.
“Services would identify people who are having a trouble paying their bills. The coordinator would then make contact and offer practical assistance.
“The coordinator would then arrange for the services to work as a team to develop a plan to get the farm businesses and families through this period financially.
“This crisis effects more than dairy businesses- there are many other businesses which rely on farmers being able to pay their bills. This coordinated approach would manage the impact of this situation on the entire region.
Mrs Britnell said it would also avoid farmers feeling alone in an already stressful situation.
“The last thing we want is people getting into such a bad place they make decisions which lead to tragic outcomes,” she said.
Mrs Britnell said the coordinator would also help in the longer term, helping establish contacts for farmers to find extra support when they need it.
“It will lead to business development,” she said.
“The volatile nature of the industry is one of the biggest challenges. If this can help a farmer develop their business plan now, it will help them navigate through those challenges in the future.”
Mrs Britnell will raise the idea in state parliament next week and will ask Agriculture minister Jaala Pulford to consider funding the program as part of any support package the government is considering.