By Jackson Russell
FARMERS in the Mitchell Shire are calling from greater assistance from the State Government after being excluded from drought assistance programs.
Farmers in north of the shire are unable to apply for On-Farm Drought Infrastructure Support Grants and the On-Farm Emergency Water Infrastructure Rebate Scheme.
The former provides up to $5000 to assist farmers with infrastructure to help manage drought while the latter provides a one-off 25 per cent rebate up to $25,000 for the costs associated with the purchase and installation of on-farm water infrastructure.
One farmer, who wished to remain anonymous, lives only a few kilometres from the shire’s border with Strathbogie and has been denied government assistance.
He said normally, he would have to purchase feed for his 12,000 sheep for about six weeks a year, but had to feed them for 10 months out of the last 13.
“The big cost is feeding, which is huge. We run a few sheep and it’s gone way over $300,000,” he said.
“We’re feeding 12,000 sheep and its costing us $2000 a day.”
After a dry summer, with just 32mm of rain since January, many of his dams are dry and he had to resort to installing a $20,000 pipeline to get water to the paddocks.
“It’s ridiculous that they can get something across the boundary and we can’t,” he said.“If our farm had have been a few kilometres north, we would’ve received $2000.”
Member for Euroa Steph Ryan said farmers have been unfairly locked out of the program.
“Drought and low rainfall do not end at arbitrary lines on a map as shire boundaries do,” she said.
“Things are getting very tough and the drought facing much of Victoria shows little sign of abating.“With feed prices increasing and water supplies scarce, even the most well-established and prepared farmers in our district are struggling.”
Minister for Agriculture Jaclyn Symes said Farmers in northern Victoria, east and central Gippsland have been doing it tough with unprecedented dry conditions.
“There is a range of support available to farmers within the Mitchell shire, and I urge people to visit the Agriculture Victoria website to see the programs available to them,” she said.
“While we can’t make it rain, we can offer support and lend our ear and that’s exactly what we are doing. My job as the Minister for Agriculture is to listen and hear from farmers about what they need, how our government can help and simply be there during tough times.
“We have Agriculture Victoria staff and rural financial counsellors available in all parts of country Victoria helping farmers with challenging conditions – and we’re getting on with delivering a $43 million Drought Relief Package.”
Support programs available for Mitchell Shire farmers include technical assistance delivered by Agriculture Victoria, the Rural Financial Counselling Service, Farm Household Allowance and Commonwealth Concessional Loans.