Victorian Government under pressure to subside transport and feed for farmers

By Rodney Woods

Pressure has been placed on the Victorian Government to subsidise transport fees following the NSW Government’s decision to remove restrictions on the subsidies it offers.

As of July 1, eligible NSW farmers can claim up to $40000 per farm business for journeys completed between July 1 this year and June 30 next year, with the subsidy covering up to 50 per cent of the full cost of freight with a cap of $5/km (plus GST).

This is no change to the subsidy that has been in place since January last year.

However, now there is no cap on kilometres per journey for tax invoices paid up until the June 30, 2020, deadline.

This change has seen Victorian Shadow Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh heap pressure on the Andrews Government to follow suit.

‘‘The NSW subsidy covers half the cost of freight, up to $5 per kilometre, and this leaves Victorian farmers, who are also under serious financial pressure from drought, at a significant disadvantage,’’ Mr Walsh said.

‘‘There’s strong demand for fodder right now and prices are at a premium, and Labor’s Agriculture Minister Jaclyn Symes needs to step up to ensure Victorian farmers have fair access to feed.

‘‘If the minister can’t stop NSW putting our farmers at a disadvantage she’ll have to match the subsidy to support Victorian farmers.’’

State Member for Northern Victoria Wendy Lovell urged Ms Symes to help the struggling dairy industry by providing funds to subsidise the cost of feed.

‘‘Victorian farmers are currently paying double the regular price of feed, partly caused by subsidised NSW farmers buying up available Victorian feed,’’ Ms Lovell said.

In response, Ms Symes said ‘‘subsidies can have unintended consequences’’.

‘‘We know that Victorian farmers are concerned about access to quality grain and fodder, with prices driven up by the demand arising from ongoing dry conditions across eastern Australia,’’ she said.

‘‘Subsidies can have unintended consequences such as inflated purchase prices and transport costs for everyone in the market.

‘‘Our almost $46 million drought support package includes cash payments of up to $3500 that can be used wherever farmers’ cost pressures are — whether it’s feed for stock, council rates or household bills — because they know their businesses better than anyone else.’’

While NSW is removing restrictions, the Queensland Government has indicated farmers suffering through drought will not be offered a transport subsidy after June next year.

The government says scrapping a subsidy to transport water and fodder will force farmers to be more self-reliant and come up with plans that make them more resilient during a dry spell.

Farmers on properties currently in drought will be spared until their property is lifted out of drought conditions.