Murrabit dairy farmer feeling the pinch of NSW frieght subsidies

By Country News

A Murrabit farmer is calling for a level playing field when it comes to freight costs on either side of the NSW-Victoria border.

Dairy farmer Andrew Leahy said the subsidies NSW farmers get for freight means they can spend more for hay than their Victorian counterparts.

‘‘They’re able to pay $50 to $60 more per tonne for their hay, because they don’t have to pay for freight,’’ Mr Leahy said.

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 decision has led Victorian Shadow Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh to heap pressure on the Victorian Government to do the same.

‘‘The Andrews Labor Government must match a NSW fodder transport subsidy that’s making it harder for drought-affected Victorian farmers to source feed,’’ Mr Walsh said.

‘‘Labor’s agriculture minister’s excuse for refusing to act is that Victorian farmers can access up to $3500 in cash grants instead — I just don’t see how that compares.’’

In response, Victorian Agriculture Minister Jaclyn Symes has said ‘‘subsidies can have unintended consequences’’.

Mr Leahy said he had seen first-hand the ‘‘unintended consequences’’ Ms Symes was talking about and a subsidy in Victoria would be the only way to reduce the pressures.

‘‘I’ve seen the price difference for hay since the day the freight subsidy came in,’’ he said.

‘‘Fodder in the west of Victoria, where the majority was coming from, went up $50 a tonne. We could be buying 500 to 1000 tonnes and that cost is a huge number.

‘‘If we had a subsidy, we would be able to pay a fraction more and put us on the same playing field.’’