Broken River irrigators ineligible for drought grants

By Jamie Salter

Broken River irrigators have been told they are ineligible for the Victorian Government's On-Farm Drought Resilience Grants.

The program is open to farmers in the Goulburn-Murray Irrigation District but does not include Broken River farmers.

The grant program, developed in 2019, defined the GMID using Goulburn-Murray Water's existing boundaries, including the six irrigation districts of Shepparton, Central Goulburn, Rochester-Campaspe, Loddon Valley, Murray Valley and Torrumbarry.

State Member for Euroa Steph Ryan said the exclusion of drought-affected irrigators on the Broken River was a terrible oversight.

“The Broken system is a dry-land regulated irrigation area that was hit hard by the drought,” Ms Ryan said.

“This system has had one of the lowest allocations of any in Victoria, has been subject to ministerial intervention, and is currently being reviewed.

“Broken irrigators should have been eligible to receive drought funding, and the definition of what constitutes the GMID was unclear and totally inappropriate.”

The On-Farm Drought Resilience Grant provides up to $5000 for farm business planning activities and an additional $5000 for drought infrastructure investments.

Benalla's Maureen Cottam applied for the grant earlier in the year and was told she was not from an eligible area.

“I was shocked,” Ms Cottam said.

“Our area was hard hit by drought, and we had nil water allocation.”

Ms Ryan said the government needed to reassess the program to ensure Broken River irrigators were eligible.

“Drought-affected farmers in drought-declared regions specified in a grant program cannot be ruled ineligible because of some unexplained line on a map,” Ms Ryan said.

An Agriculture Victoria spokesperson said the grants were targeted to support irrigators in the GMID in response to dry seasonal conditions, high water prices, and dairy industry transition issues.

“Agriculture Victoria offers a range of support services to all farmers managing dry seasonal conditions, regardless of where they are in Victoria,” the spokesperson said.

“This includes business decision-making support, technical information, resources to support climate change and risk management.

“Other support for farmers includes the Commonwealth's concessional loans program as well as the Rural Financial Counselling Service which provides free assistance to farm businesses to manage through drought and dry seasonal conditions.”