Farmer support misses the mark: Bull

Farmer support misses the mark: Bull

Victorian farmers impacted by drought and dry seasonal conditions, will have access to more support, with two support funds from the Andrews Labor Government now open, however Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, says the funding is “ignorant of the current reality”.

Minister for Agriculture, Jaclyn Symes, at the weekend announced the Labor Government’s $2 million Pasture Recovery and Management Grant Program to back drought-affected farm businesses in East Gippsland and Wellington shires.

The Pasture Recovery Grants provide support of up to $5000 on a dollar-for-dollar matching contribution basis, for activities associated with pasture recovery and restoration due to the extended dry conditions.

“The Pasture Recovery grants are vital for farmers in Wellington and East Gippsland to minimize the damage these extended dry conditions have done to their paddocks, and future-proof them for years to come,” Minister Symes said.

However, Mr Bull said after three years of drought, few now have a spare $5000 to benefit from it. He said many farmers are struggling to survive financially and drought relief measures that continue to ignore this state of affairs are a cruel deception.

“I have been saying for many months that the most effective from of drought relief is to subsidise farm rates which will in turn free up money for the specific needs of individual farmers,” Mr Bull said.

“Farmers continue to be made tantalising grant offers that even if they are a priority, are often financially impossible to access.

“In the on-farm forums I convened late last year there was strong agreement that the one subsidy that would assist all farmers and could be equitably provided, was council rate relief (where the State Government pays the rates of farmers to the shires).

“In February this year Minister Symes contributed to expectations of full rate relief by saying in local media it was ‘on the table’. “A farmer I spoke to last week is spending $2000 per day on her feed bill.

“The priority is to keep her livestock alive and while pasture renovation is important for the future, it’s not the most pressing need.

“The current cost of full farm rates relief in the East Gippsland Shire is $4.9 million and in Wellington Shire it is $10.1 million.

“The Minister needs to take decisive action to get rates relief back on the agenda and funded in the forthcoming State budget,” Mr Bull said.

The grants can be used for seed and fertilizer costs, ground cover establishment, planting shelterbelts, desilting works on dams, upgrades to stock containment areas, professional pasture restoration planning advice and other professional services used for pasture restoration.