Future of cropping fundraiser in doubt

Kate MatthewsCountryman

A community cropping group says the future of its fundraising efforts is in limbo because of a lack of commitment from the State Government over a farming lease.

Farmers from Newdegate involved in the community cropping group want the Department of Agriculture and Food WA (DAFWA) to commit to a three-year-lease for the Newdegate Research Station.

For the past four years the Lake Grace Shire has leased the research station for community groups in both towns for cropping programs to raise money for local groups.

The Shire was originally given a three-year-lease but once the research station was earmarked as a possible ‘lazy asset’ along with 111 properties, only a one-year-lease was forthcoming.

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Newdegate farmer David Butcher says it’s the fourth year wheat has been planted and isn’t sustainable.

If a longer lease was given, the group would manipulate the pasture and grow other crops.

“We were going to crop half and manipulate half but we don’t know what’s going to happen next year, ” Mr Butcher said.

“It’s still up in the air and we can’t get any commitment from the Government or agriculture department for a long-term lease and we can’t continue a rotation of wheat, wheat, wheat, ” Mr Butcher said.

“Without a commitment, we aren’t going to plant lupins or canola because if it gets sold, we’ve lost our gain out of it.”

The group has cropped 800ha and are agisting sheep on 350ha but said to stop weed seed set on pasture paddocks, it would be nice to know in September.

From cropping the research station, the Newdegate group has raised $15,000 for a community bus and have pledged $30,000 towards a new synthetic bowling green.

A DAFWA spokesman confirmed the Newdegate Research Station had been identified in a strategic asset plan as underutilised.

“The lease has been restricted initially to 12 months and there may be an opportunity to extend the lease, ” the spokesman said.

“DAFWA will confirm the preferred option for the Newdegate research station property by the end of October 2011. The local shire has been kept informed about DAFWA’s plans for the Newdegate site.”

The strategic asset plan has aligned assets DAFWA’s current and future business demands to determine ‘lazy’ assets and areas investment is needed. The plan is expected to be made public after consultation with other agencies including LandCorp and Regional Development and Lands.

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