UDV slams agricultural staff cuts

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Not so black and white: The Victorian dairy industry is going strong, but the state government is cutting agricultural staff. Photo by Jamie Salter

UDV members have instructed their organisation to lobby the Victorian Government to abandon its plan to cut agricultural staff.

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 shed employees through early retirement, but the UDV says Victoria will be losing valuable, experienced scientists.

Tatura farmer and West Goulburn UDV branch secretary Hamish Crawford put the motion up, criticising the government’s decision and asking for a guarantee that dairy research funding within Agriculture Victoria will continue.

He was particularly concerned that the redundancy offer was targeted at staff who were 55 years and over, and who had been employed for at least three years.

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

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

“The department has been able to provide this role in evaluation, which is important to establish the credentials for these investigations, particularly as we are trying to adapt to climate change.

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

Mr Crawford said it was also a shame to see the departmental cuts when dairying was performing so strongly and recovering from some tough years, with prices reaching $8/kg of milk solids and water now more available due to favourable weather conditions.

He pointed out that over the past decade there had been a series of reductions in dairy support staff, including the removal of the dairy research centre in Kyabram.

The state government said Agriculture Victoria had found 100 workers willing to take an early retirement package and bow out.

The government also said Agriculture Victoria had more than 1200 staff and was the largest group under the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions umbrella.

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

Victorian Nationals leader Peter Walsh said the job losses came in the wake of 47 jobs lost in late 2021, largely in the soils research team.