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Support needed for unprecedented frost damage

Farmers across Western Victoria are reeling from devastating frosts in recent weeks that have completely wiped out some crops.

Member for Western Victoria, Simon Ramsay, has told the Victorian Parliament that the degree of damage could be unprecedented.

He has asked the Minister for Agriculture, Jaala Pulford, if she understands the enormity of the loss, what contingency plans she has in place and what help she is offering to shattered farmers.

“I have spoken to farmers across the region and they are all telling me the same story: the damage is enormous and potentially unprecedented,” Mr Ramsay said.

Ararat farmer and Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) representative, Charlie de Fegely, told Mr Ramsay that some farmers face 100 per cent wipe-outs.

“There are farmers who have lost everything. For others the damage won’t be fully understood until harvest begins in mid-December.  At that point – the toll will be known,” said Mr Ramsay.

“The financial impact could be losses of $400 million or more.  It is a realistic and devastating figure.

“However, I fear the social impact could be as much an issue as the financial impact.  These are real people whose lives have just been shaken to the core.”

Reports indicate that wheat crops have been severely damaged right across the region – as have grapes.  Canola crops appear to be hit by an estimated 25 per cent and barley just shy of that.

“But anyone growing pulses – lentils, chickpeas and beans – will be rocked most.  These farmers are facing 100 per cent crop losses.  How do you deal with that?”

Mr Ramsay has told the Parliament that farmers in the Ararat region are facing a double whammy –  lost crops and local rates that may go up by 60 per cent due to plans by the Ararat Council to scrap the 55 per cent farm differential.

“If we told a nurse, a teacher, a government bureaucrat, a union official that their income was going to be cut by 50 per cent or more – there would be an outcry and demands of compensation.

“But little noise is made when our primary producers lose their entire income for a year.

“Farmers cannot get insurance for frost damage – they are left completely at nature’s mercy – and yet bear the state’s weight of export expectation on their shoulders”.