Drought grants missing affected farmers

Drought infrastructure grants missing affected farmers


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MISSING OUT: Riga Angus stud principals Tim Finger, Nina Burnett, and Vera and Ian Finger. Vera Finger said it is disappointing the Mansfield region is not eligible for the On-Farm Drought Infrastructure Support Grants scheme.

MISSING OUT: Riga Angus stud principals Tim Finger, Nina Burnett, and Vera and Ian Finger. Vera Finger said it is disappointing the Mansfield region is not eligible for the On-Farm Drought Infrastructure Support Grants scheme.

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There are concerns the Victoria Government's On-Farm Drought Infrastructure Support Grants scheme is not servicing the full Victorian farming community affected by drought conditions.

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There are concerns the Victoria Government's On-Farm Drought Infrastructure Support Grants scheme is not servicing the full Victorian farming community affected by drought conditions.

The scheme, launched in September last year, provides grants of up to $5000 to assist with the implementation of on-farm infrastructure that improves drought management and preparedness.

Eligible farm businesses are required to provide at least dollar for dollar matching funding.

Approximately $10 million of the $13.2 million total allocated funding has already been distributed to Victorian farmers.

In Mansfield, in North-East Victoria, many farmers are enduring a tough season, but are not eligible to receive the grants.

Riga Angus stud co-principal Vera Finger said they had implemented all of their drought management strategies from early weaning, stock containment and feed budgeting.

“We have begun feeding autumn calvers, and we are concerned over some paddocks' water supply where a bore is unavailable," Ms Finger said.

She said she was aware neighbouring areas such as Benalla, where similar rainfall totals had been recorded, were eligible for the grants, so it was disappointing the region was discriminated against.

“Given the current season, being able to access a grant to continue to improve infrastructure and technologies to improve on-farm efficiency would help keep beef farmers in or ahead of the game,” she said.

“There would definitely be farmers in our area who would be pleased to utilise these grants if they were available.”

So far, more than 2450 applications have been received by the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources, across all eligible regions.

Of those, approximately 1950 have been approved or offered in principle.

The Radford family, Creightons Creek, were approved for grants, and recently received $2500 in funding, with the remainder of the $5000 proposed at a later date.

Mark Bradford said they had utilised the funding to install water tanks within an established containment area, as well the the necessary infrastructure such as plumbing to ensure the water captured can be managed.

Mr Bradford said a large part of their stock management during the drought involved ensuring a pump was turned on so stock had access to water.

“With the tanks established, it will give us piece of mind that our stock are getting water, without always relying on a pump," he said.

He said the rainfall within the area had been quite minimal, and with ground water sources being exhausted, water sources were scarce.

Agriculture Minister Jaclyn Symes said the Victorian Government took into account a range of social, economic and climatic conditions when determining whether farms were eligible for the drought support.

Ms Symes said one of the priority considerations was the occurrence of very much below average rainfall for local government areas and its impact on agricultural business and regional communities. She said she was unaware of any concerns regarding eligibility processes​.

She said there were other support services available state-wide, including the Rural Financial Counselling Service and increased drought preparedness technical service. The government had not provided any indication whether the infrastructure grants funding package would be boosted once the money ran out.

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