The slow uptake of the Victorian government’s Drought Infrastructure Grant Program has called into question its usefulness.
Recently, the government announced an $11.8 million boost to the program, after it originally pledged $1.4 million.
But since it was established in September, only 136 Victorian farmers have applied for grants, with only 86 so far approved.
The program enables eligible farm businesses to apply for grants of up to $5000, to assist with the implementation of on-farm infrastructure that improves drought management and preparedness.
Originally, the program was specifically for farmers in East and Central Gippsland, but it has now been opened to farmers in the north of the state too.
Eligible infrastructure improvements include the construction or upgrade of stock containment areas, reticulated water systems using pumps, tanks and troughs for livestock, irrigation systems, grain and fodder storage, and other feeding systems.
But Sale farmer Angus Zilm said the program was merely a band-aid approach, and not enough to enable tangible change.
Mr Zilm said it was time the government got serious about supporting its farmers and rural communities.
“$5000 is nothing when farmers are faced with having to lay off staff due to not being able to afford to keep them on, carting water to keep animals alive, and purchasing large amounts of feed at $10,000 per semi load,” he said.
“[Farmers are] installing containment yard fencing and water points at a cost between $30,000 to $50,000 to eventually re-establish pasture and perhaps restock when the drought breaks.”
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Nicholson farmer Peter Kramme has applied for a grant as a part of the Drought Infrastructure Grant Program, but said the administration involved made the application process lengthy and challenging to complete.
Mr Kramme said having to pay for everything first and then waiting to be reimbursed half of the price may make it difficult for some.
“Until the cash invoices have been finalised, you don’t get your money,” he said.
He plans to use the funds to fix a submersible pump on his property which had recently broken down.
Have you applied for a grant? Let us know in the comments below.