My adjournment matter is for the Minister for Agriculture, and the action I seek is to immediately reinstate the funding for the cattle underpass scheme, or CUPS as it is commonly known in the industry. Minister, I have been contacted by many dairy farmers in my electorate who have expanded their farms and are now looking to improve safety for their cattle, staff and of course motorists when they are moving their herd between properties. Avoiding moving cattle across busy roads and using an underpass is obviously the safest, but it is also a very costly, option. The CUPS program had previously provided grants to farmers looking to build an underpass, but I understand that as of July last year the program had ceased and in fact the funding pool had completely dried up in December 2019. So far the government has given no indication they plan to reintroduce the important program that has dramatically improved workplace and road safety for farmers and motorists in my region. One of my constituents recently wrote me an email, saying:
The need for this scheme to be an everyday and ongoing fund is very important. We all get on the wheel at different times, and as land becomes available to purchase we should have the opportunity to avail such funding as necessary. We live on a very busy tourist route and twice daily cross our cows across the road. I would feel much more comfortable if my staff and family did not have to deal with dangerous drivers.
The government’s own report into the scheme shows exactly why this program must be reinstated. It showed road and workplace safety has increased substantially, with one in 10 Victorian farmers who had not installed underpasses reporting having cows injured or killed in road collisions. No farmers who had installed underpasses had reported any road incidents related to their stock. The report also found that cattle underpasses not only bring benefits for safety but also improve productivity, with farmers reporting that installing an underpass saved them about 6 hours of labour a week, made their herds easier to manage and enabled them to use their land more productively. It also found farmers who installed an underpass on average increased their herd size from 299 cows to 340 cows.
Minister, this is a very important program, and I urge you to reinstate funding to improve safety for farmers and motorists and help dairy farmers in my electorate to be more productive.