Extra $115 million relief for farmers
- David Rood and Darren Gray
- October 14, 2008
The relief package offers a glimmer of hope for drought-stricken Rochester farmer Bruce Macague, who has had to bale his failed wheat crop for fodder. Photo: Jason South
DROUGHT-RAVAGED farmers and country communities will receive an extra $115 million in drought relief as they struggle to cope with the worst dry spell in 150 years — not to mention the global financial meltdown.
After record low September rainfalls, the State Government has decided to bring forward the drought package — the third in as many years.
The relief money, which Premier John Brumby said would be available immediately, was supported by the Opposition and the Victorian Farmers Federation. It includes:
?$58 million in water rate rebates for irrigators.
?$20 million for employment programs and building infrastructure in small towns.
?$15 million for a 50% subsidy on council rates and charges for farmers.
?$6 million in farm productivity improvement grants to be spent on drought-proofing works.
?$4.4 million to help community sports facilities invest in water-saving technologies.
?$3.8 million to convert playing surfaces of country sports facilities to synthetic materials.
It was the best news that Rochester farmer Bruce Macague has had in a while.
At the beginning of the growing season he sowed 500 hectares of wheat on his dryland farm, and 100 hectares of wheat on his irrigated property. Last week, stuck on zero water allocation, he cut the irrigated crop for hay and silage and sold it to local dairy farmers.
“I was hoping that I’d get some irrigation water this spring to be able to water up and finish the crop off and have a high-yielding crop. But it didn’t even make it that far,” he said. “It’s the third time in a row we’ve had to do it and try to salvage the best result you can out of it.”
It is a similar story for the young farmer’s canola crop, which has also been cut for hay.
His rain gauges reveal his average rainfall this year has been less than half the average for the past three years. Bureau of Meteorology figures also reveal that Victoria has missed out on nearly two years of average rainfall (1197 millimetres missed) since the drought began in 1996.
“It is yet another year of bloody treading water,” he said.
Launching the drought measures, Mr Brumby said the worst sustained dry period in modern history had created the need for urgent assistance. “The situation is as tough as we have ever seen,” he said.
With the prospect of drought-affected crops and the international financial crisis, Mr Brumby said the relief plan was larger than it otherwise would have been. “Everything worked against us,” he said.
The package also offers money for mental health services, including for farmers who have left the land.
To be eligible for the water rate rebates, farmers must be receiving less than 30% of their water entitlement as of December 1. To be eligible for council rate subsidies, farmers must be getting drought relief payments from the Federal Government.
Victorian Farmers Federation president Simon Ramsay said: “This isn’t a hand-out by any means. This is about allowing us to produce food for both this country and internationally as well.”
Original post from The Age: HERE
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