Chance to meet new minister

By Geoff Adams

Greater Shepparton rural leaders took the opportunity to gain the ear of Victorian Agriculture Minister Jaclyn Symes at a Committee for Greater Shepparton dinner last week.

Ms Symes spoke to the group about recent developments in dairy industry support, the establishment of enterprises like the $13million medicinal cannabis factory, and to describe how the Victorian Government was using the regional development bodies to make priorities for funding.

She also visited the new vegetable farm of the Velisha family at Ardmona.

The Werribee-based growers have bought a property to establish vegetable growing in the Goulburn Valley to take advantage of more affordable land prices and a longer growing season.

Ms Symes said the 2000 farms in the Shepparton region contributed 13 per cent of the state’s production.

‘‘Shepparton’s $1.9billion agriculture industry has a strong future but it is also facing some short-term challenges.’’

She said the government was supporting the industries through initiatives like the recent round-table conference jointly held with Water Minister Lisa Neville at Tatura.

Ms Symes said she had met with the new owners of SPC and heard their commitment to growing the business.

‘‘I have given them my commitment to continue to work with them as they take on the business with a new focus to develop new markets and to take the company to a new level.’’

Committee for Greater Shepparton chair Lesley Hart noted the major projects on the horizon but also drew attention to issues concerning residents of the region.

She said the region suffered from high youth unemployment and also skills gaps.

Ms Hart also said there was a great deal of angst being expressed about the process for the establishment of the new super secondary school.

She said Shepparton wanted to achieve an education system that young people needed and deserved.