New drought-funding for Victorian farmers

By Rodney Woods

New funding for farmers suffering through dry conditions has been announced by the Victorian Government.

Agriculture Minister Jaclyn Symes, with Premier Daniel Andrews alongside, announced more than $31 million in targeted support for areas hit hardest by dry conditions, including Goulburn Murray Irrigation District.

“We've listened to drought-impacted farmers, and this package reflects what they’ve told us — delivering both immediate relief while also providing long-term investments to prepare for the future,” Ms Symes said.

The government will establish a $15 million Farmers’ Drought Fund to help farming businesses and families that need it most, alleviating some of the immediate burden while also supporting farmers to make investments in the long term.

The fund will provide household financial relief for families in central and east Gippsland, the Millewa and the GMID who have been hit hard by drought — with $3 million to deliver hardship payments of up to $3000 per family, taking immediate pressure off everyday expenses.

The package will also provide $2.3 million in farm business management and planning support, $2 million for mental health services and $1.25 million for local projects and events to help keep communities strong.

Shadow Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh called the funding "underwhelming".

“Our drought-affected communities are desperate for action from the premier and it’s disappointing that what he’s turned up with today (October 2) still falls well short of expectations,” he said.

VFF president David Jochinke welcomed the new drought package but questioned the roll-out process of some of its components.

“The new drought package is a step towards providing desperately needed support for farmers struggling through some of the worst drought conditions on record,” he said.

“Other measures in the package such as bore licence waiving, employment programs, access to emergency water, household assistance, and mental health services are welcome additions.

“However, the devil is often in the detail with funding programs, and we await further information about how these will be rolled out.”

The Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority will be involved in the delivery of the funding in the GMID.