State Member for Euroa Steph Ryan has accused the Andrews Government of excluding Mitchell Shire farmers from a program which provides grants of up to $5000 to assist them with on-farm infrastructure to help manage drought.
But Victorian Agriculture Minister Jaclyn Symes confirmed they were not forgotten, with programs available including Agriculture Victoria technical assistance, help from the Rural Financial Counselling Service, On-Farm Emergency Water Infrastructure Rebate Scheme and Commonwealth assistance from the Farm Household Allowance and Commonwealth Concessional Loans.
‘‘While we can’t make it rain, we can offer support and lend our ear and that’s exactly what we are doing,’’ Ms Symes said.
‘‘My job as the Minister for Agriculture is to listen and hear from farmers about what they need, how our government can help and simply be there during tough times.
‘‘Farmers in northern Victoria, east and central Gippsland have been doing it tough with unprecedented dry conditions and that’s why we’re delivering a cash injection to farmers who have been hit hardest.’’
Ms Ryan urged the government to include every farmer in the funding, not just those hardest hit.
‘‘Farmers across Mitchell Shire have been unfairly locked out of this program,’’ she said.
‘‘Drought and low rainfall do not end at arbitrary lines on a map as shire boundaries do.
‘‘Things are getting very tough and the drought facing much of Victoria shows little sign of abating.
‘‘With feed prices increasing and water supplies scarce, even the most well-established and prepared farmers in our district are struggling.
‘‘The government should immediately add Mitchell Shire to the list of areas where farmers can apply for funding for on-farm infrastructure and emergency water infrastructure.’’
Ms Symes said a list of programs available to farmers could be found on the Agriculture Victoria website.