In what has been a tough 12 months for dairy farmers, the Victorian Government’s decision to extend mental health funding provides some good news for those who need it most.
Last year the Andrews Government announced a $1.5million package of mental health support for dairy farmers, in response to the global fall in milk prices and decisions by Murray Goulburn and Fonterra to cut the prices paid to their suppliers.
The funding has been extended for a second year, and will provide mental health first aid training, counselling, community grants and services such as the VFF’s Looking Over the Farm Gate program.
Despite not using the funding, Toolamba dairy farmer Rick Cross said he had experienced mental health issues in the past.
‘‘I’ve had times when mental health issues were a problem,’’ Mr Cross said.
‘‘It’s been a very difficult 18 months which started with dry conditions and then the price drop by the two companies affected cash flows. It’s probably been the hardest time physically and mentally over my career, which has lasted 20 years.’’
Mr Cross said the funding extension, which will continue through the 2017-18 season, was a welcome announcement.
‘‘Absolutely, it’s very important that it (funding) continues and we are lucky we have another 12 months.
‘‘A lot of cash flow issues will be ongoing for a long time. They’re not going away in the short term.’’
Dhurringile dairy farmer Tony McCarthy agreed that cash flow issues were a long-term fix.
‘‘It’s very important — farmers are under a lot of pressure because of the financial situation after the milk price cut, which is just on 12 months ago,’’ Mr McCarthy said.
‘‘Even though grain and water prices have been positive, (financial improvement) is still going to be a while.’’
Although not a Murray Goulburn or Fonterra supplier, Mr McCarthy said the price drop had affected all suppliers.
‘‘We have supplied Tatura Milk and haven’t had the big hit but it’s still been a difficult trading year for all milk suppliers because milk prices are break even or less for our business.’’
Mr Cross and Mr McCarthy both said the upcoming season had a much more positive outlook but would still be tough going for dairying across the region.
‘‘It’s going to be a difficult 12 months,’’ Mr Cross said.
‘‘A lot of confidence and a lot of trust has been lost. We need to make the most of water and fodder when it’s cheaper.
‘‘Dairying is very valued to the local economy. It’s not a basket case, it’s just going through a rough stage.
‘‘Milk prices are looking to improve but to what level is hard to know at this stage.’’
■If you or someone you know needs help or advice call Lifeline on 131114 or beyondblue on 1300224636.