Drought support for Ovens Valley farmers

8 August 2018, Mr McCurdy (Ovens Valley): I am very concerned for the farming community in Victoria, and the Ovens Valley in particular. The lack of significant rain within the region but more particularly north of the Murray is putting pressure on fodder and water prices. Hay and grain is leaving the region at a steady rate, and indications are that within the next six to eight weeks there will not be any hay left.

Of course we need to support our farming neighbours in New South Wales and beyond, and of course we need to work together to see that we all make it through this difficult situation. But I have concerns that our city-centric Labor government fails to understand the significance of the current situation. As ruminants our dairy and beef stock need fibre to function, and the lack of hay will make this difficult situation worse. Ordinary quality hay is being quoted at $380 a tonne, nearly three times its normal price. Temporary irrigation water is selling at about $350 a megalitre. These prices are unsustainable. Orchardists have no option but to purchase water; otherwise their trees will die. Beef farmers are selling breeding stock, which is a one-way ticket to disaster.

I plead with the agriculture minister in the other place to get out of Melbourne, stop looking at the internal issues of the Labor Party and assist our communities. Get on the phone to your counterparts in other states and work collaboratively. Let us not blame the federal government but be proactive in Victoria to play our part.

Environmental water can be used to bring the temporary water price down and sugar cane in North Queensland can be used to supplement stock in Queensland rather than trucking hay from Victoria up to Queensland. A small amount of action now can solve a major problem in the coming months.

I spoke with Max Wright of Invergordon last week. He is juggling a reduction in contracts for his canning fruit and excessive water prices at the same time, and extra water is hard to find. Those who hold the water can make choices about whether to use it on farm or sell it for the highest possible approach. Granted that this gives businesses flexibility, but for some businesses there really is no real choice.

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