VFF push for freight rail investment

THE Victorian Farmers Federation will push for $250 million in government freight rail investment at its grains conference at the weekend.

Federation grains group president Brett Hosking said the conference would look at the main challenges to grain farming.

“As grain growers, having access to silos, freight lines and reliable rural roads is the most important part of our job,” he said.

Mr Hosking said Victoria’s mix of rail gauges was a significant productivity issue for grain producers.

“We still have a mix of standard gauge and broad gauge rail freight lines in Victoria that creates blockages and bottlenecks that frustrate our ability to quickly and efficiently deliver grain to port,” he said.

He said the federation would continue to ask both major parties to fund rail upgrades from the proposed sale of ports.

“In 2013, cereal grains were Victoria’s most valuable export, generating more than $2.2 billion to the state’s economy, yet we’re struggling to find a mere $250 million to invest in our future,” Mr Hosking said.

“Both the Coalition and Labor are hell-bent on selling off the Port of Melbourne to bankroll a raft of election promises to metropolitan Melbourne.

“Politicians on both sides of parliament need to remember the port was built on the back of food and fibre exports, which is still our biggest export from Melbourne.

"So, if they’re going to sell or lease the port, then farmers want to see the bulk of the $6 billion in forecast revenue going back to regional Victoria.”

Mr Hosking said the closure of manufacturing businesses in Geelong and Melbourne’s suburbs would mean a greater focus on jobs in farming. 

Also on the conference agenda will be panel discussions on managing fire risk during harvest, women in agriculture and grain trade insolvencies.

Dr Chris Murray will talk about developments in grains, including the Victorian opium poppy trial which was announced in January. 

The conference in Ballarat is on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.

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