Assistance sought for agistment, feed

Jo FulwoodThe West Australian

Fewer than half of the State Government's $25,000 hardship grants have been paid to farmers in the eastern Wheatbelt.

The Department of Agriculture and Food has confirmed that 95 of the 220 grants approved so far will go to farmers in the shires of Dalwallinu, Koorda, Mt Marshall, Mukinbudin, Trayning, Nungarin, Kellerberrin, Merredin, Yilgarn, Bruce Rock, Narembeen, Kondinin, Kulin and Lake Grace.

Only seven of those grants will go to farms in the Shire of Yilgarn.

Yilgarn Shire president Romolo Patroni said he had called for the reformation of the Dry Seasons Advisory Committee, saying subsidies to assist with stock agistment and feed transport would be more appropriate for businesses in the area.

"The area of need is the eastern part of the Wheatbelt, and only seven farmers in Yilgarn received any support at all," Mr Patroni said.

"To date, the requests that we have made regarding reforming the Dry Seasons Advisory Committee have fallen on deaf ears.

"We would have thought the Government may have been able to assist us at least with subsidies for the movement of stock, or bringing hay and grain into the area."

Mr Patroni said he had approached Agriculture Minister Ken Baston in regard to reforming the committee.

"When we approached him, he was very emphatic," Mr Patroni said.

"The government will not put any money into assisting us with subsidies on grain or stock movement.

"This whole process started when the Premier visited Moorine Rock, and then following on when we had the crisis meeting in Merredin.

"Yet only seven grants have ended up in this area."

Mr Baston said farm businesses had been required to move away from expecting government assistance for things like stock movement support or fodder subsidies, and to prepare for what was common to agriculture around the world - dry seasons.

He said the State Government's position was to continue to provide risk management training to help farmers prepare for dry seasons as part of their business planning, but it would not be providing any financial support.

A meeting will be held today to discuss the immediate situation facing broadacre farm businesses in the Wheatbelt.

A spokesperson for the department said this meeting would identify the key issues and scope out the work required to address them.

The spokesperson said the meeting would then consider engaging people with the expertise and experience to look at long-term sustainability for farm businesses.

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