Victorian Farmers Federation host Wimmera crisis meeting after frost

WIMMERA grain leaders will lobby the state government for financial assistance after a late season frost destroyed crops in the region.

About 100 farmers gathered at Tatyoon Hall on Thursday for a crisis meeting about the frost.

Murra Warra farmer and Victorian Farmers Federation president David Jochinke said the priority was to gather data on crop losses to better deliver assistance. 

“It was mainly wheat crops that were damaged and depending on the location, there was minor damage all the way through to a 100 per cent wipe out,” he said.

“The spectrum of damage was quite large and the areas were people were hit were quite large.

“Assessing where each individual farmer was at was one of the most important things last night.”

Heavy rainfall on Wednesday and Thursday has also complicated the harvest for surviving crops. 

Mr Jochinke said representatives of most of the major banks were at the Tatyoon meeting and the federation was in talks wit the state government.

“For assistance to be developed, they have got to have a clear understanding of where the damage is,” he said.

“There is no immediate response that is going to change the situation, it is more of a wait-and-see while we collect the data and we have dedicated resources in the area to assess the damage.

“I think the assistance will be as much about understanding what has happened and putting in place systems so that people can make better decisions quicker, and ensuring the banks and financiers are fully across the situation.”

Mr Jochinke said he hoped to have state government representatives and ministers tour the region next week.

Western Victoria MP Simon Ramsay

Western Victoria MP Simon Ramsay

Member for Western Victoria Simon Ramsay told parliament that the damage to grain and pulses around Ararat and Horsham was ‘unprecedented’.

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

He said Ararat farmer and Victorian Farmers Federation representative Charlie de Fegely had told him some farmers faced 100 per cent wipe-outs. 

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

“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.”

Mr Ramsay said reports indicated wheat and grape crops had been severely damaged right across the region. 

“Canola crops appeared to be hit by an estimated 25 per cent and barley just shy of that,” he said. 

“But anyone growing pulses – lentils, chickpeas and beans – will be rocked most.” 

Victorian Farmers Federation grains president and Warracknabeal farmer Ross Johns. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

Victorian Farmers Federation grains president and Warracknabeal farmer Ross Johns. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

Warracknabeal farmer and Victorian Farmers Federation grains group president Ross Johns said farmers could help ease the burden of losses with long-term planning.

“There has been significant damage,” he said.

“It’s always a bit difficult to quantify as there will be parts of the paddocks which are low-lying and will be severely affected and then the higher hilly parts won’t be affected as badly.

“In those areas that are low-lying, some people are telling me of 80 to 100 per cent losses.

“The challenge is that we do always have the chance of getting frost and farmers have got to work it into a viable 10-year business plan.”

Mr Johns said despite farmers having plans, disasters like a frost were always confronting.

“It’s not as easy in the year that it happens, because you lose money you were expecting to get,” he said.