UDV denounces cuts in agricultural personnel

Not so black and white: The Victorian dairy industry is booming, but the state government is cutting back on farm workers. Photo by Jamie Salter

UDV members have ordered their organization to lobby the Victorian government to abandon its plan to cut farm workers.

The issue was raised by Goulburn Valley UDV members at the annual UDV conference in Melbourne on April 29.

Agriculture Victoria has been told to lay off workers through early retirement, but the UDV says Victoria will lose valuable, experienced scientists.

Tatura farmer and Hamish Crawford, secretary of West Goulburn’s UDV department, filed the motion, criticizing the government’s decision and calling for a guarantee that dairy research funding within Agriculture Victoria would continue.

He was particularly concerned that the layoff offer was aimed at employees 55 and older who had been employed for at least three years.

Mr Crawford said the dairy industry relied on experienced scientists to provide independent verification of research being conducted in the dairy sector.

He said projects such as the Future Fodder program, designed to investigate the most efficient feed sources for dairy cattle, required oversight from independent scientists.

“The department has been able to fulfill this role in the evaluation, which is important to establish the references for these studies, especially as we are trying to adapt to climate change.

“I hope these cuts will not affect our access to this independent verification.”

Mr Crawford said it was also a shame to see the cutbacks in wards as the dairy sector performed so strongly and recovered from some difficult years, with prices reaching $8/kg of milk solids and water, now more available as a result of favorable weather conditions.

He pointed out that there had been a series of cuts in the dairy’s support staff over the past decade, including the relocation of the dairy research center in Kyabram.

The state government said Agriculture Victoria had found 100 workers willing to take early retirement and retire.

The government also said Agriculture Victoria had more than 1,200 employees and was the largest group under the umbrella of the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions.

Across the DJPR, a total of 174 people chose to take early retirement.

The leader of the Victorian Nationals, Peter Walsh, said the job losses resulted from the loss of 47 jobs in late 2021, largely in the soil survey team.

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