Farmers want practical help, not freight subsidies

By Jeanette Severs

A group of farmers from across the East Gippsland and Wellington shires have made a list of the actions they believe will make a difference if the 2018 Spring fails and the region remains dry.

Their suggestions are based on freeing up working capital and recognising and valuing the infrastructure they have already installed to manage the drought over the past 18 months.

Also on the list is rate relief and reimbursement for fodder and freight costs already paid.

“It’s no use asking for subsidies to buy fodder and freight going forward, that will only push prices up,” said Ensay beef breeder, Barry Newcomen.

Victoria’s Agriculture Minister, Jaala Pulford, agreed. “The economic analysis we’ve done has shown subsidising freight and fodder pushes costs up,” she said.

Accountability and transparency was also important to the farming group.

“Everyone will have receipts to prove what they have spent,” Mr Newcomen said.

The suggestion to reimburse some portion of infrastructure costs was viewed favourably. As was lobbying for additional extension services for farmer–led groups and recognising the value of education.

“In our first year of government, farmers in northern Victoria asked for assistance in paying for infrastructure and we thought that wasn’t a feasible option. But we were proved wrong,” Minister Pulford said.

“Containment yards, silos and water can make a difference. We saw that infrastructure investment made a difference during the dairy crisis.”

She said farmers needed to be given credit for the way they had managed their businesses in the past two years.

"These are highly capable business men and women, running complex businesses, who have very capably managed difficult conditions for quite some time now,” Minister Pulford said.

“We also found in northern Victoria and during the dairy crisis that paying people’s kindergarten fees was welcomed by the broader community.”