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From the Editorís Desk
More difficult times ahead
During the difficult years of the drought, the Federal Government implemented a range of measures designed to assist struggling farmers to either survive on the farm if viable or if not, get out with dignity. One of those measures, the exit package offered by the Government last year, saw a number of Riverland small fruit growers leave the industry with a grant of $150,000 to re-train and make a fresh start in a new field. Although reluctant at first, the growers who accepted the offer are now happy they made the right decision.
Another Federal Government scheme, the Exceptional Circumstances program, offered help to farmers and growers who were unable to service their farm loans by subsidising up to 80% of their interest as well as paying a Centrelink allowance for food on the table for struggling families.
Due to the break of the drought, this scheme is winding up on 31 March. A large number of Riverland winegrape growers who had been optimistic for better returns in the coming season, have just learned that the grape prices are actually going down and they won't be getting any payments for a while as the harvesting is at least one month late due to the cold weather conditions. This means, a large number of Riverland farming families are going to be left in an extremely difficult position as there will be no Centrelink payments from 1 April onwards and any income from their crop will be too little too late. All this will impact dramatically on the already struggling Riverland economy.
Selling a fruit property these days is not an option because no one will buy it. We feel that the Federal Government has an obligation to re-examine the Riverland situation and help those who have to adjust. Perhaps a new exit package will give the opportunity to more struggling families to get out of a troubled industry and do something different that will make life better for them.
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