Deputy Prime Minister to see farmers' plight

THE Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack will experience the plight of local farmers first-hand during a four-hour visit to the Cohuna area on Thursday.

Mr McCormack will visit a local dairy farm, meet with local leaders from various sectors of the community and will announce some support for the region.

The Deputy Prime Minister and a delegation of politicians will finish the day at Swan Hill after having visited Albury and Cohuna.

The farm crisis discussions have been prompted by a local political lobbyist and a stock agency firm.

Primary Partners lobbyist, Andrew Gibbs and local Charles L. King stock agent, Alan Mitchell have been pushing for more engagement with Canberra on water since 2016. The pair have been at the forefront of working with farmers to ensure a roster of Ministers and experts have been available to the local agribusiness operators through the Gannawarra Water Action Council.

Mr Gibbs said that he has experienced almost a 90 per cent drop in revenues from local clientele this last year and said he has been forced to secure clients in Melbourne and interstate.

"There has been a huge drop in local businesses capacity to contribute to our economy," he said.

"Since the triple-whack effect of the Murray Goulburn price collapse, skyrocketing water and grain prices, underpinned by drought, all businesses are hurting in some form here. Although we have taken a big hit, it's still most important to use our relationships to engage as many decision-makers to come and listen to our community in crisis. 

"Even if that involves a lot more pro bono than one would like, we must collectively focus on how we can play a role to ensure we all have a future firstly, then take care of ourselves".

Charles L. King and Co has joined with Primary Partners to oversee a series of positive engagements on Thursday. Mr Mitchell said that they intended to maximise every minute of the Deputy Prime Minister's four-hour visit.

An invitation-only working lunch for 90 representatives of the business, farming, not-for-profit and community sectors will enable representatives to engage with Mr McCormack.

"For us it is an easy decision to sponsor the forum as having to offload so many (dairy) herds this last three months, we are happy to make contribution back, because this short-term increase in work for us, will be followed by an all but static market for the year ahead and that's not ideal for farmers, agents or the country if it goes too long," Mr Mitchell said. 

"There are far too many who have just been taken by stealth during this crisis. The two of us are seeing it up close every day. I along with many farmers are just grateful of the significant political influence Andrew has had to help our community have a direct voice so we can contribute to the national decision process.

"Many big movements don't get the access we have had in Gannawarra, seeing this will be the fifth Cabinet visit he has delivered to our regions in 24 months".

Mr Gibbs said that Mr McCormack has been engaging frequently these last three months, wanting to know how things have been compared with the many other drought regions to inform the decision processes and he believed that the Deputy Prime Minister will leave here with a strong grip on what we are facing and hopefully, in return, we will see some solutions tailored to help our communities.

Charles L. King senior stock agent, Alan Mitchell, left, and lobbyist Andrew Gibbs at Cohuna saleyards, where many dairy cattle are being sold.

Charles L. King senior stock agent, Alan Mitchell, left, and lobbyist Andrew Gibbs at Cohuna saleyards, where many dairy cattle are being sold.

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